Irish Roots

John Grenham


May 18th

I see that the ESRI has published a report showing that job applicants with Irish surnames are twice as likely to get to the interview stage. So what exactly is an 'Irish' surname, and how can you make sure yours is Irish enough?

The first step, obviously, is to stick on an 'O' or a 'Mc'. Mackiewicz is certainly not Irish enough, but McKiewicz might just get you through the front door. Okechukwu will send your CV to the bottom of the pile, no doubt. O'Kechukwu is unlikely to do much better, however.

So what else can you do? A lot depends on where precisely in Ireland the CV sorter comes from. If they're from Limerick they might recognise Ebzery and Birhagra and Fizell as perfectly ordinary names. Unless they're from Antrim, McLuggage will probably sound like a bogus asylum seeker. Vizard, Kyne, Derenzi, Wallox, Mullinax - these are all perfectly familiar surnames in some parts of the country, but could be serious obstacles in job-hunting.

You could always try to disguise the name. Try dressing up Mahmoud El Hagga as Mattie McIlhagga, perhaps? The problem is that for many in the South, McIlhagga (and McEldoon and McClurkan and McIlweel) sounds as foreign as Swahili.

I suspect respectable English or Welsh surnames - Whitaker, Dawson, Jones, Robinson - are unlikely to be weeded out. What's wanted is a white, familiar, Anglophone name, not necessarily an Irish one.

The message for Irish Human Resource departments is that surnames don't have dark skin and strange accents and funny food and they won't come over here and take all our jobs. Judging people by their surnames makes as much sense as judging them by their eye colour. A peculiar-smelling surname is not going to marry your daughter.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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