Newry should be very proud of itself for the way it has welcomed and befriended the many nationalities that has made the district their home.

This, says Jerome Mullen, Honorary Polish Consul, has helped the city become one of the most diverse and inclusive in Ireland.

He is one of four local people to serve as an honorary consul in recent times.

"It speaks a lot for the area," says Jerome.

"It's very unusual that you would have four honorary consuls located in the one place, which is what has happened over the last number of years.

Jerome Mullen. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Jerome Mullen. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

"And I think it does show the diversity of Newry, and how Newry has embraced European communities, and other communities, that have come to live and work here and how valued they have been made in relation to the workplace.

"I was giving a talk at MJM recently on the new settled status situation that will arise after the UK leaves the European Union, and in that room, I was flabbergasted; there were 100 workers, mainly all Polish, but also including Spanish, Bulgarian and a few other nationalities.

"It demonstrates the diversity of Newry as a welcoming place, that Newry is for minority communities."

A key part of this, he says, is the Council decision to establish an Ethnic Minority Centre in Newry.

Since it opened in 2007, it has helped over 15,000 people on housing and employment rights, registration for public services, education and many other wide-ranging issues and queries.

It is the only Council-funded Ethnic Minority Centre in Northern Ireland.

"What we have done over the years is we have reached out to these communities and recognised them, and one of the very important things that happened really early was when the Council established its Ethnic Minority Office in the Town Hall, which is always busy helping people," said Jerome.

Tom Kelly. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/
Tom Kelly. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/

"This plays a huge role in making people feel welcome; they understand what services are available to them and that they're not feeling like strangers living here, especially when there's a language barrier in many cases.

"Those are all very positive things and I think Newry should be very proud of itself."

Norbrook founder Lord Ballyedmond served as Honorary Consul to Chile.

Dr Gerard O'Hare was Honorary Consul to Latvia until recently.

Tom Kelly, Newry businessman and political commentator, was appointed Honorary Consul for Malta in 2007.

He believes Newry's growing multicultural society has not only enriched the city, but has challenged and changed the minds of many people.

"Diversity adds to a richness and stops people being very insular," he said.

"From the society which we grew up in, which was very inward looking and was probably dominated by two tribes, it's great to see the other cultures and nations coming here to live and work and bringing their expertise and their colour to the picture, because, in some ways, as much as they choose Ireland as the place they want to live, it also means Ireland becomes much more outward looking and that's what I think makes the difference."

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