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‘Let’s talk about racism’

Last update - Thursday, November 12, 2009, 14:14 By Metro Éireann

Sarah Freeman meets Garrett Mullen of Show Racism the Red Card, which aims to promote integration in sport across Ireland

Show Racism the Red Card is an organisation that harnesses the profile of sport to educate people against racism. Started in Newcastle, England in 1995 when soccer player Shaka Hislop donated £50 to a local anti-racism campaign after being the victim of racist abuse, it has now grown into an international initiative.
Garrett Mullen, 34, is responsible for starting the Irish branch of the organisation. “I was studying sociology and social research in Newcastle and Show Racism the Red Card had a stand at freshers’ week,” he recalls.
“The first event I went to really impressed me. It was at the then new Sunderland Stadium of Light and there were two players there who had played for Ireland, Curtis Fleming and David Kelly.
“Kelly had a personal issue against racism as he had scored a goal against England in the game that was ultimately called off because of racist abuse by supporters.”
Mullen had never witnessed soccer stars speaking out on an issue like that before: “It was educational and important.”
The Irishman quickly got involved in voluntary work for the organisation. On returning to Ireland he continued his outreach work, this time with the Simon Community, and he also worked as a probation officer before setting up his own branch of the anti-racism initiative.
“Ireland was changing but I wrote letters to every sports organisation and politician and got no response,” he says. “It was only in 2006 when we got the financial resources from the Government to produce an information pack.”
This pack is one specifically designed to help educate teachers, youth leaders and community gardaí about racism and the various ways to combat it. “It’s a 28-page booklet with a DVD that features top sportspeople in Ireland talking about their views. It also has young people discussing their experiences of racism and what they did about it.”
Show Racism the Red Card also holds training days where the aim is to make people more comfortable discussing the issue. This year alone, over 70 FAI development officers have completed the training programme, the key message of which is to encourage children to talk about their problems with racism.
“We say talk to your coach, or your teacher. It relates well with the anti-bullying programmes that schools have in place,” says Mullen, who adds that he can see the campaign having effect at grassroots level.
“We promote integration and the fact that so many nationalities are setting up their own sports groups just shows that there aren’t enough resources going into sport. Ideally, there would be participation and integration.”
With a number of initiatives planned for the future, at the moment Mullen is exploring the possibility of holding an intercultural summer camp. Having taken part in one in Russia last summer, where he taught children Gaelic football and gave English lessons, he feels that it would be a great way for young people and volunteers of all nationalities to mix.
“It would also be a great way to recruit new volunteers and that would help the organisation to grow,” he enthuses.
In the meantime, Mullen will be launching a new season campaign in April in tandem with a number of League of Ireland soccer clubs. He also encourages schools to invite his organisation to come and talk to students to raise awareness about a difficult subject. In tune with this, there is an anti-racism competition where children can send in a picture, photo or article on the theme of racism.
Fourteen years after its humble beginnings, and with satellite initiatives in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark joining the Irish branch, it seems that the red card really is being shown to racism throughout Europe.

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