Archbishop calls for Government to take action against racism

Diarmuid Martin says rise in immigration will create issues that must be addressed

 Archbishop Diarmuid Martin    has said the Government must encourage integration and counter racism in Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the Government must encourage integration and counter racism in Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


The Government must encourage integration and counter racism in Ireland, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

The rise in immigration would “inevitably lead to a continuation of the housing shortage. Pressure on social services is also likely to grow. The Government has to take precautions and foster structures designed to encourage integration and counter racism,” he said.

There was also a growing problem in Ireland when it came to “obtaining [an] entry visa for ministers of religion”, he said.

He pointed out that in the State today “it has long since moved from being politically risky to get into a battle with the church, to a situation in which there are few votes to be won through being too closely linked with church issues”.

The archbishop made the comments while addressing a conference in Rome titled “Migration from a Pastoral Perspective” at the Pontifical Oriental Institute.

A community has to develop an openness to migrants and help overcome hostility towards them, he said. “This can be especially the case when there is a belief that immigrants are taking employment or social service benefits away from the local population,” he said.

This hostile attitude was also “something that is deliberately fostered based on false information. Much of the climate that led to the British vote to leave the European Union was based on alarmist and unfounded fear of migrants”.

“Migrants have a right to spiritual and religious assistance according to their traditions. There is a growing problem in Ireland but also in the United Kingdom obtaining [an] entry visa for ministers of religion,” he added.

The archbishop said the State was now “a multicultural society, with one in eight residents (12 per cent), about 650,000 in total, born elsewhere, and the demand for skilled and unskilled workers is rising”.

Changing culture

The archbishop pointed out that “religious culture in Ireland has also changed”. In the 2016 census Dublin had a population of more than 1.5 million, of whom about 75 per cent described themselves as Roman Catholic. However, he said that in a more recent census “48 per cent of those between the age of 24 and 29 registered as having no religion”.

This “no religion” category “was highest in the age group with children entering school life and the group naturally most active in the formation of the political culture of the future. The age group 20-39 accounts for 28 per cent of the general population but 45 per cent of those with no religion fall into this age bracket,” he said.

This change in religious culture in Ireland was “especially significant in looking at the changing role of marriage and the family in modern Ireland”, he said.

While the basic culture of Ireland was still strongly family-friendly, it was changing rapidly, he said. “Today the average age of mothers at first birth is more than two years younger than the average age at marriage”, while “over half of all births outside marriage are to couples who are living together”, he said.

Regular religious practice in Ireland had “dramatically decreased in recent years” but by European standards it was “still high”.

Secularisation in Ireland was “well advanced”, but “there are many residual elements of faith and religiosity present in daily life”, he said.