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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Nigerians put down new roots in Ireland
By James Helm
BBC correspondent in Dublin

Sunday morning on a narrow back lane on the north side of Dublin.

From outside the nondescript commercial building there is little sign of what is happening within.

A booming economy has led to Dublin becoming more cosmopolitan
I have come to talk to Pastor Lawrence Oyetunji, a Nigerian, about the church he leads here.

But before tracking him down, in his glorious gold outfit, I stumble into other huge African churches.

On each floor hundreds of men, women and children are worshipping, and the cacophony of guitars, drums and voices is deafening.

African churches in Dublin are growing in size and number.

They reflect not only a growing community, but also one that is putting down strong roots, establishing its own amenities and services.


They are exuberant symbols of a changing city.

It is thought there are around 15,000 Nigerians in Ireland, with most of them living in the capital.

Tina Akinola-Jinad
Hairdresser Tina has been in Dublin for seven years
Pastor Lawrence, who runs the Christ's Ambassadors Ministry, told me he hopes that when people look at his congregation they will see law-abiding citizens who are doing the right thing and who are contributing to Irish society.

Ireland has treated his community well, he believes, "so we have to offer something back to society - to say: 'Thank you'".

I met Tina Akinola-Jinad a few streets away in the Lady B hairdresser's.

The owners - and most of the customers - are African, and Tina, who is also Nigerian, described the changes she has witnessed since she came to Ireland seven years ago.

"Services are now available. Now we can get our make-up, our own food and our own fabric," she says.

Tina even runs an annual pageant called The Most Beautiful African Girl in Ireland.

Those changes are evident in Moore Street, a busy, noisy shopping street in the heart of Dublin. Some Nigerians say it reminds them of home, with its vibrancy, colour, and its range of African businesses.

I walked down it with Chinedu Onyejelem, a Nigerian who edits Metro Eireann, a multi-cultural newspaper based in Dublin.

He has done well here, and recognises the way things have changed as his community has settled in and found its feet in Irish society.

He told me that he wishes more of his fellow countrymen and women would integrate further by getting to know more Irish people.

All this in a country which has experienced mass emigration down the years.

Ireland has only witnessed significant immigration relatively recently, with its astonishing economic success of the last decade or so attracting people to its shores.

So immigration has jumped on to the political agenda, with the recent referendum on citizenship rules provoking animated debate.


The influx of Nigerians grew in the late 1990s due to political turmoil back home, but has since levelled out.

View along the Liffey river, Dublin
Nigerians are trying to leave their mark on the city
They have fought some negative assumptions, and, according to the people I spoke to at least, are attempting to make a positive, permanent mark on Ireland.

Some have come here seeking asylum, others for educational courses, others still as entrepreneurs, determined to succeed here.

One such entrepreneur is Oluseyi Olyiola, whose Crystal Superstore sits on the ground floor of the back-street building which, on Sundays, houses the church congregations.

He is opening shops around Ireland which sell African foods, specially imported.

He is meeting a need, and Irish people come here for their shopping too.

He showed me the heaving shelves of yams, plantains and salted fish, as the tills rang behind us.

"Business is good because Ireland is growing," Oluseyi told me, "Ireland is now becoming multi-cultural."



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