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What Statistics Don’t Tell Us

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Fiona Loughnane, NCAD in conversation with Tom Felle, NUI Galway and Nick Henderson, CEO, Irish Refugee Council

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In conjunction with the exhibition Incoming and Grid (Moria), Butler Gallery has programmed a series of events that aims to bring us closer to the stories of people who have been forced to migrate or seek refugee status in Ireland. Migrants and refugees are often purely seen as a statistic in newspapers or on TV, however, behind each number is a person with a very personal set of circumstances. It is important that these people’s experiences are known and understood in order to raise awareness and compassion within wider Irish society.

Migrant and refugee stories are for most people seen through a lens of statistics and cold figures. It is rare we get to see the person at the heart of the story. Media reporting is often inaccurate and distorting which in turn can negatively affect public perceptions of the very people most in need of assistance and help. How does journalism shape public perception of the refugee crisis and what strategies are required to insert empathy into the script?

Fiona Loughnane is a lecturer in the National College of Art and Design, Dublin (School of Visual Culture) and a PhD candidate in Maynooth University (Dept. of English). Her PhD research investigates the photographic economies of Irish Catholic missions to Africa. Recent publications include an article on the use of Congo atrocity photographs in commemorations of Easter 1916 (Review of Irish Studies in Europe 2:2) and a forthcoming book chapter on photograph albums produced by Irish missionaries in Kenya. She is a member of the research collective, Photography/Archives/Ireland, which has organised a series of symposia engaging with photographic theory and practice from both historic and contemporary perspectives, see: https://photographyarchivesireland.wordpress.com/

Tom Felle is Head of Journalism and Communication at NUI Galway. A former career journalist and foreign correspondent, he started his career with the Connacht Tribune and worked with the Irish Independent in Ireland for six years. He was Deputy Editor of the Irish Echo in Sydney from 2001 to 2004, and from 2006-2008 he served as Bureau Chief of the Leb News Agency in Beirut, Lebanon. He has worked in higher education since 2009. His research interests include digital news, verification, data-driven journalism, so-called "fake news" and dis-information, and trust, transparency and accountability in democracy.

Nick Henderson is the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council. Previously he managed Amnesty International Ireland’s work on economic, social and cultural rights, was Legal Officer with the IRC Independent Law Centre from 2011-2014 and also worked with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland on the criminalisation of forced labour. Prior to coming to Ireland he was a legal representative for people seeking asylum with the Refugee Legal Centre in London from 2004-2010.

Image Caption:

Richard Mosse, Still from 'Incoming' #88, 2014-17, © Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery and carlier | gebauer

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Inspiring culture seekers since 1943, the Butler Gallery is a not-for-profit organisation that is free of charge and open to the public six days a week year round. We offer our visitors contemporary exhibitions, which reflect the constantly changing nature of visual art practice. Providing a platform for the best of Irish art today and demonstrating a strong commitment to presenting work by artists of international repute, we aim to stimulate, inspire and challenge our audience. 

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