Tolerance and immigrants


Sir, – Further to David McWilliams’s article “Why Ireland leads in tolerance towards immigrants” (Opinion & Analysis, September 29th), his discussion of the Eurobarometer survey results overlooks a few important differences between Ireland and other EU countries with regard to “the largely non-white population that is the anathema of the far-right in Europe”.

The majority of non-nationals living in Ireland are from Poland and the UK. The proportion of non-EU and “non-white” immigrants is very small.

According to Census 2016: “The 535,475 non-Irish nationals living in Ireland in April 2016 came from 200 different nations. Polish nationals were the largest group with 122,515 persons followed by 103,113 UK nationals and 36,552 Lithuanians. Just 12 nations each with over 10,000 residents – America, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK – accounted for 73.6 per cent of the total non-Irish national population.”

Ireland was very late to “opt in” to the EU quota system for distributing refugees from Syria and other crisis areas. In 2015, Ireland pledged to accept 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers under the UNHCR resettlement and EU relocation schemes but had only received 1,842 in total by the middle of June 2018.

A further 345 were due this year.

Unlike the UK and other EU countries with a colonial past, Ireland does not have immigrants from former colonies who become the targets of xenophobia.

For the above reasons, some of the questions posed in the Eurobarometer survey were bound to elicit very different results depending on the profile and proportion of immigrants in that country (such as, “Do you think immigration from outside the EU is more of a problem or more of an opportunity for your country?”).

I don’t think our tolerance of immigrants has really been put to the test in Ireland yet. Hopefully we would be as tolerant as Eurobarometer and David McWilliams suggest, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back until we’ve had to deal with the same level of immigration as, say, Italy or Greece or Germany. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 4.