08 May 2008

'Filipinos didn't want to go home, says priest'

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland) carries a follow-up story today, 8 May, to the one published yesterday (see posts for 5 and 7 May) on the Filipino fishermen who came home after allegedly being badly treated in Northern Ireland. As a Columban priest I'm particularly happy to know that one of my confreres was so helpful to these men.

The News Letter notes today that 'the devoutly religious Catholic fishermen' 'were widely respected by the entire Kilkeel community during their year living in the village'. Yesterday's story quoted local DUP Assemblyman Jim Wells: 'They had been here for about a year and were very highly respected in the local community,' he said.'They were deeply religious and local people say that you could have set your watches by them walking up to the chapel on Sunday with their Bibles.'

What is significant about this is that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is supported almost totally by Protestants and was founded by the Reverend Ian Paisley, now first Minister in Northern Ireland and violently anti-Catholic in his younger days. On 24 April I had a post, Ice-cream melts divisions, which showed how the silent witness of an Italian had done precisely that. Filipinos in Northern Ireland, mostly Catholics, are from outside Irish/British history and so bring something new. Their faithfulness as Catholics is admired by people, some of whom would not have been particularly well-disposed towards Catholics before.

The News Letter is the world's oldest English-language newspaper still in print, founded in 1737. Its readership would be almost totally Unionist, ie in favour of Northern Ireland remaining in the United Kingdom, and Protestant. But there is a new climate in Northern Ireland today. And the Filipinos living there, the vast majority of whom are happy to be working there, are part of that.

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