Mount Stewart House and Gardens, near Newtownards, is famous all over the world for its unique microclimate which allows all sorts of unusual plants to thrive.
Now it has been chosen as the venue to celebrate Northern Ireland’s ethnic diversity. Members of the Chinese and Polish communities, accompanied by Paul Stewart of the National Trust and local political representatives, took part in the ceremonial planting of two trees — representing the Chinese and Polish communities — on Saturday, October 29.
Anna Lo, MLA, said: “I welcome this event which celebrates the diversity of Northern Ireland by incorporating our two largest ethnic minority groups. The growing diversity of our population should be reflected through inclusive approaches that incorporate minorities and make them feel part of our society.
“I congratulate the initiative taken by Paul Stewart of the National Trust in instigating greater ethnic minority participation in National Trust sites."
Eileen Chan-Hu, Chief Executive of the Chinese Welfare Association, said: “I am delighted and privileged that the Chinese community is recognised alongside the Polish community as integral communities in Northern Ireland and this tree planting symbolises the bond between the Chinese and Polish communities and all communities in Northern Ireland.
“Many thanks go to Paul Stewart, National Trust on enabling the Chinese and Polish communities to participate in promoting diversity and as the first minority ethnic communities to be supported. The Chinese community have been here since the ‘60s and is one of the oldest settled minority ethnic communities and this initiative is greatly welcomed. I hope it will be extended to all other communities as it will leave a legacy for others. A Chinese proverb reads, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is today.”
Maciek Bator, Director, Polish Association Northern Ireland, added: “It is an honour for the Polish community to plant an oak in such a place like Mount Stewart.
“We have come in great numbers to Northern Ireland after 2004, but members of our community have been here before.
“The graves of Polish aircraftmen who served and died in Northern Ireland during World War II made a historical link with Poland. I believe this tree will become a symbol for a new chapter of the relationship between the Polish and local communities.
“An old Polish legend says that Poland was founded when one of three brothers - Lech saw a white eagle flying back to his nest on the old oak tree.
“Northern Ireland with its people become a new home for many Polish families."