Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

Céad míle fáilte? Not so much

Last update - Friday, April 15, 2011, 21:07 By Tara Fannon

Shortly after moving to Ireland in late 2003, I visited a friend down in Cork. Over a celebratory drink in a local pub, I shared my excitement about my relocation and the prospect of big things to come.

Turing the evening happened upon a local guy who seemed close enough to my age. We started chatting, as you do. He was curious about my situation. I told him that I’d obtained my Irish citizenship thanks to my grandparents and decided to start anew. Back and forth we shared information about our lives – pretty harmless, really. Then he said: “So you’ve come to Ireland to take jobs away from us.”
As a foreigner I’ve had it pretty easy here. For one, I speak the language. Beyond that, my Irish citizenship has allowed me to slip into everyday life almost seamlessly. I’ve been able to work without restrictions, open bank accounts, avail of free higher education and apply for grants, among other things.
This got me thinking about the experiences of asylum seekers and economic migrants who don’t have it as easy as me. Ireland has a reputation abroad as a country that is warm and welcoming, ‘céad míle fáilte’ and all that. Actually, not so much. There seems to be a widespread fear about the future of this tiny country and its natives. And the current system in place through which non-Irish can enter the country is a reflection of this.
Ireland’s immigration policy, first implemented in 2000, is designated for asylum seekers and non-EU economic migrants. Without going into detail about the policy itself, it’s important to note that it’s very limited in who it refers to and quite restrictive in how it deals with those who it does.
Asylum seekers are most affected. They’re not permitted to work or leave the country before or while their cases are being heard. They’re often housed in isolated over-crowed prefab buildings or vacant motels. They’re cut off from local communities, disallowed from preparing their own food and given strict curfews or restricted from leaving the immediate surroundings of their living quarters. In modern democratic Ireland, it’s hard to believe that such treatment of human beings not only occurs, but happens so blatantly.
Non-EU economic migrants have made a slightly easier transition into the country simply because Ireland has had a need for them. But as a whole, they are only slightly better off than asylum seekers. Even though they’re contributing to the growth and maintenance of the Irish economy, they’re denied certain rights to healthcare, free education and social welfare. Moreover, they’re often targets for hostility and social exclusion.
The Irish are a proud nation of people, and coming from the United States, I can identify. Their colonial past is undoubtedly part of this. But as honourable as it is, it also plays a role in the xenophobic and sometimes hostile behaviour towards the non-Irish.
It’s been suggested to me that the Irish believe their identity is under threat by foreigners. If that’s true, it certainly wasn’t helped by the so-called Celtic Tiger. The major economic changes during that time created a demand for labour that exceeded the local supply. The Irish Government chose to recruit abroad to fill jobs that the Irish couldn’t or wouldn’t do.
One might think that the Irish, given their history, would indeed be more sympathetic to those who are seeking a better way of life. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. The lack of proper integrative support for immigrants (the most basic being English language instruction) and a shoddy immigration policy is a testament to this.
What is really troubling about this is that the many different social, cultural and historical aspects significant to Irish identity seem to be embraced only when under threat. This raises new questions about the behaviour toward migrants, that must be investigated further.

Tara Fannon is a Sociology student at UCD. Her column appears regularly in Metro Éireann

Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links