Friday 22nd September was Culture Night all over Ireland – an opportunity for millions of people to enjoy dipping into the rich and diverse cultural heritage for free. Portlaoise Parish Centre, known for its open doors and inclusive atmosphere, hosted ‘Exploring Cultural Connections’ with a mix of communities including resettled Syrians, asylumn seekers from the Direct Provisoin Centre, Lithuainian and Polish dancers, and an Irish Traditional Music band seeking to form an international orchestra through the Comhaltas group. At the same time, the Parish Centre was given a well deserved award as an Honorary Place of Sanctuary, which Fr Paddy Byrne received with a heart-warming speech about their commitment to sharing the centre with all communities of all faiths and nationalities. Radwan from Syria and Rosie from Swaziland responded with testimonies about how their communities had been helped to make the Parish Centre a home from home, facilitating excellent intercommunity relationships and conversations.
The campaign for Portlaoise and Laois to be recognized as a Town and County of Sanctuary were also officially launched as Laois Integration Network outlined its plan for a sustainable strategy to build inclusion and welcome into all sectors of society. This welcoming community is already promising to be a beacon for the whole of Ireland