The growth of intolerance
More than half a million immigrants live in Ireland, but since the start of the recession the number of incidents of racism has increased while State funding and supports have declined
Private funding is an issue too. Migrant lobby groups that have secured funding from Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation will soon lose that support when the two groups wind up in the coming years.
“There is a legislative and policy vacuum on racism and interculturalism,” says Shane O’Curry, the director of the Irish branch of the European Network Against Racism. “The State has got away for years with not funding this area but now we are looking at a cliff edge when things could worsen,” he adds.
Ireland has been a special case on attitudes towards migrants, shunning overt racism because people care about the country’s image abroad, says Killian Forde, the chief executive of the Integration Centre. The lack of a right-wing nationalist party, and in its place Sinn Féin as a left-wing nationalist party, has also generally kept intolerance at bay, he says.
But there are worrying signals about what kind of country Ireland could become amid evidence in the Integration Centre’s report that attitudes here towards immigration are worse than in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and on a par with the UK. “We are catching up with the worst of them,” says Forde.
“We are sleepwalking our way into a major problem.”
Attitudes to immigration: What the ESRI study says
There have been “significant changes” in Irish attitudes to immigrants and immigration since the recession, according to the report this week by the Economic and Social Research Institute, commissioned by the Integration Centre. Up to 2006 there was a “clear rise” in positive attitudes but in 2010 there was a “clear fall”.
Irish people with university degrees have a more positive attitude to immigrants, as do those under 45 years, the study shows.
It also highlights Ireland’s foreign-born population of 17 per cent, which is high compared with other high-income countries in the OECD. Despite the recession, the overall number of immigrants has declined only slightly. While 172,000 immigrants left Ireland between 2008 and 2012, 140,000 came in. Over 136,000 Irish people left the country between 2008 and 2012, while 81,100 came in.
Immigrants here are more likely to be unemployed than Irish people. In 2012 the unemployment rate for Irish nationals was 14.7 per cent, and 18.5 per cent for non-nationals.
Africans had the highest rate of unemployment at 27.1 per cent, followed by British nationals at 24 per cent and people from central and eastern EU states at 18.4 per cent. Immigrants have about 10 per cent less disposable income than Irish people and are more likely to be at risk of poverty.
People of black ethnicity were four times more likely to experience discrimination than white Irish people. The discrimination for black people was reported in shops, pubs, housing and transport and had risen since 2004, the study says.
Few immigrants register to vote in Ireland. In Dublin City Council about a quarter of non-EU nationals were on the electoral register in 2010/2011; only around 13 per cent of EU nationals were registered. But the figures are different for immigrants who have become Irish citizens: 72 per cent were on the electoral register.
Between 2005 and 201134,500 people from outside the EU were given citizenship.
Immigration: the numbers
The number of non-Irish nationals living in Ireland
The number of Polish nationals living in Ireland: the biggest migrant group. They are followed by UK nationals (112,259), Lithuanians (36,683), Latvians (20,593) and Nigerians (17,642)
The number of immigrants living in Dublin city - the highest number in the country
The percentage number of immigrants living in Galway city: the highest proportion in the country
The percentage of immigrants living in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo: the highest of any town in Ireland
*Source: Census 2011