A Dublin conference has heard that Ireland’s economic recession is fuelling racism in the country - as immigrants are perceived to present a ‘threat’ to jobs for native Irish.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland celebrated its 10th anniversary with the seminar, which heard founder, Sister Stan Kennedy describe the co-relation between the country’s economic woes and recent racist incidents.
“There is a growing perception that migrants are a threat to Ireland and the ‘native’ Irish, and are unfairly benefiting from Irish jobs, entitlements and public services,” said Sr Kennedy.
“The increasing levels of racism emerging in recent times can be attributed in part to such misconceptions. Racist abuse has varied from spitting, pushing and beating people up to shouting and verbal abuse.
“There is a lack of clarity on immigration policy, while the immigration system remains chaotic, bureaucratic, cumbersome and lacking in transparency.
“The system is being reviewed by the Government, but there remains a high level of discretion for the Minister for Justice.”
Former Irish President Mary Robinson also addressed the Dublin conference.
She told delegates, “Negative attitudes to immigration are dangerous and must not be tolerated in a civilised society. This attitude is often not based on a real threat to jobs or livelihoods, rather that when things are bad there is a temptation to look around for someone to blame.
“While the boom is over, many migrants are now part of Irish society. Immigrants are making a terrific contribution to Ireland’s economy and our society. That contribution must be celebrated and valued.”
Immigrant Council of Ireland chief executive Denise Charlton told the meeting that Ireland had changed from a ‘white, predominantly Catholic society to something very different now’.
She remarked that there are about 35,000 newly naturalised Irish citizens in the country and about 500,000 immigrants in total.
Charlton said, “In some respects it is increasingly a case of ‘them and us’ and unless people change their attitude and see Ireland as a multicultural society, racism will remain a long-term problem.”