The 'Quiet' Ethnic Contribution; A Recent Report Found That All Minority Ethnic Communities in Northern Ireland Had Experienced Racial Harassment. Today, DEBORAH DUNDAS Looks at the History and Culture and the Challenges Facing Those Who Have Made the Province Their Home

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBORAH DUNDAS

While wars and myths and religion have been informing the history and culture of Northern Ireland for thousands of years, ethnic minorities have quietly been contributing to life here since the middle of the 17th century. In fact, Harland and Wolff shipyards - one of the major symbols of 20th century industry - owes something to the Jewish heritage of Wolff.

The first example of a person of ethnic origin living in Northern Ireland goes back to 1652 when a Jewish tailor by the name of Manuel Lightfoot settled here. Not much is known about him - and the real story of the Jewish population in Northern Ireland starts in the mid-1800s.

In the mid-1800s, for example, Daniel Jaffe, a Jewish merchant from Hamburg, came to Belfast. He ultimately opened up three linen mills and his son, Sir Otto, served as Lord Mayor in the early part of this century. The Jewish population grew to about 1,500 but, according to Norma Simon, a second-generation Irish Jew, there are only 100 or so here now.

"In the last 30 years, the population declined due to the Troubles and due to students going to Great Britain and not coming back.''

Indians first came over in the 1920s, mostly Sikhs who arrived as seamen or former soldiers who'd served abroad with the Indian army. Education was the driving force for them, particularly in the medical profession. Many of them liked it here and decided to stay. …