Links between Brazil & Ireland                          Fr. Pat McNamara                                      www.visiteirlanda.com

 

 

 

Brazilian Migrant Workers in Ireland

 

Pat McNamara   -  pmcnamara @ spirasi.ie

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Ministry

 

            (Dublin) Since January 2005 I have been working full time with the Brazilian community in Ireland.  At that time I was aware of the presence of many Brazilians in various parts of the country and now at the end of the year I have a wide range of activities with them...

  

            I celebrate Mass in Blanchardstown for the Brazilians who work in Clonee, in Keepak.  There are a regular group of about 50, and we often use the songs they know from Vila Fabril, which is a small area in the city of Anapolis where they come from.  In fact their own parish priest came to visit them last year, he is well aware that the majority of his flock are being financed by their men folk here.

 

            Another group is in Naas, where they are working for Kilkee Meats and again they are nearly all from the same place in Brazil.  I have done some marriage preparation with a few couples who were going home to get married and wanted to have done as much as possible before leaving.  For this preparation I was joined by a Brazilian couple who are married ten years and now living here in Ireland.

 

            In the last year I have started saying Mass in Gort and Loughrea where there are big numbers of Brazilians.  This came about as another SVD priest, home from Brazil, was away and I took over.  A very dedicated group of singers living in Athlone came to both these Masses and made a big contribution.  In Loughrea a number of people working in the building trade, wanted to set up their own company and so be legalised.  Unfortunately “tourists”, which is what they are legally, are here to spend money not to earn it.  However I did steer them towards the trade unions to see if they could be of any help. A Redemptorist based in Limerick is now helping with Gort and Loughrea which freed me up to take on ministry in Tullamore and Ballyjamesduff.  In both places there are significant numbers who are saying the rosary and doing their best on their own, which has been greatly helped now that I say Mass there once a month.

 

            In all these places there is a regular stream of requests about how to process things; immigration problems or marriage or baptism issues.  The local clergy are only delighted to have help.

 

 

Combating Discrimination

 

            There have been quite a few cases of discrimination against Brazilians.  I have called together those who have work permits to become members of SIPTU.  I have been instrumental in mobilising workers in a number of meat processing plants in different parts of the country.  The officials and SIPTU  members are very happy to see this happen. I have also brought some people to the Equality Authority and their cases are still pending.

 

 

Legal Translation

 

            I am regularly called to different courts or Garda Stations around Leinster to translate for Brazilians who have some legal difficulty.  This is a great contact point to meet those, who would never darken the door of a church, but who are very much in need of help and support.  I have been able to sort out a lot of things for different individuals in this way and I see it as an important ministry.

 

 

C.A.B.I.

 

            Recognising the need to have some sort of a clearing house for new arrivals, who turn up every week, we decided to form a legal entity to be able to run services.  Hence the Centro de Apoio de Brasileiros na Irlanda was born, a Brazilian support group.  This was formally  registered as a not for profit company in the summer and now I find that Brazilians have heard about this in various parts of Europe. I get calls from different cities around the continent asking about; immigration issues, employment, studies and accommodation.  In general I have been able to deal with the queries but I set limits as to how much I can do for them other than pointing to relevant websites.

 

 

Mentoring

 

            A number of reporters have asked for contacts or for help in their work.  Students in different third level colleges have asked to interview me or for me to help them interview Brazilians who are the concern of their thesis.  I have been called on by researchers doing their homework for different programmes, both for local radio and for RTE.

 

            Fr. Bobby Gilmore SSC (Director of the Migrants Rights Center Ireland) has invited me to represent him at different gatherings.  In one case it was for a renewal day for diocesan clergy and they were clearly aware of the fact of having migrants in their parishes.  Their main concern was how to do anything to reach out to them, not having any language skills or even having been abroad at all.

 

            In a similar vein I have been called on to make presentations to adult education groups, looking at the factors behind migration and explaining how things are to make such an adventure a very viable option for those who are living from hand to mouth with no prospects of things improving where they live.

 

 

Citizens Information Centre

 

            A suggestion was made to me early this year to make myself available in some office on a regular basis.  This was to be able to offer advice/orientation to Brazilian/Portuguese speakers about employment/ housing/ medical/ schooling/ immigration issues.  So I started attending every Monday night in the Citizens Information Centre in Blanchardstown.  I speak French as well as Portuguese and I have been able to use French more often than Portuguese there.

           

            Building on this I started attending a course run by Comhairle (Formerly the National Social Services Board) which is designed to form people to become accredited information providers.  I am now in the middle of the academic year and I have been invited to participate in another more concentrated course about the situation regarding migrants, also run by Comhairle.

           

In Conclusion

           

            As can be seen there is a fair amount of juggling of my diary in trying to keep things moving but so far I have not had any major problems.  When I started out at the beginning of the year I did not have a clearly defined target but now at the end of the year I can see there are plenty of possibilities and I am more than pleased with what I have achieved so far.

 

 

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02.01.06