A tree being planted at Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore as part of the Putting Down Roots initiative.

First of 8,000 trees planted in Offaly in Putting Down Roots initiative

by Sarah Slevin

A project to plant 8,000 trees in Offaly to represent the number of asylum seekers in Ireland has begun with the first ceremony at Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore.

Other sites which have been chosen for the ‘Putting Down Roots’ environmental arts initiative include Birr and Lough Boora Parklands.

Museum of Everyone (MOE) has teamed up with visual artist Steven Doody, Amanda Nyoni, Easy Treesie and the Irish Refugee Council for the fundraising and awareness project.

MOE has been leading the initiative from its base in Tullamore and Director Brendan Fox has said its main focus is “representation and diversity”.

“We work with lots of different groups and try to see the issues at play and how we can creatively engage with that group to help in some way,” Brendan said.

“It’s about communities getting together and planting these trees with people who are in Direct Provision and other groups; connecting people and helping them put down roots in Ireland,” Brendan added.

MOE has been aiming to raise €40,000 by asking people to donate €5 per tree – the funds will go towards supporting young people in Direct Provision beyond secondary school.

“That €5 goes to the Irish Refugee Council which goes straight towards third level education for young people who have been through the system,” Brendan said.

“We identified the issue around further and third level education that supports usually fall away after secondary school. We are all aware that education itself is a level of freedom,” Brendan said.

The ‘Putting Down Roots’ project is one of a series of socially inclusive art projects in outdoor spaces and an Arts Council initiative of 'In the Open/Faoin Spéir' which is supported by Birr Festivals Collective, Lough Boora, Tullamore Arts Centre and Offaly County Council.

“This project is part of the Spectacular Vernacular project, which sees arts events take place around the countryside, in the open and it’s trying to encourage people to re-engage with the community and the arts in a safe environment,” Brendan said.

To support this project and make a donation, people can visit irishrefugeecouncil.ie/appeal/putting-down-roots