Why Ireland needs to talk about immigration now!

Kevin Myers in yesterday’s Irish Times is a must read on the implications of racial tensions (subs needed) in Paris and to less spectacular extent in Birmingham for Ireland:

The year in Ireland is not 2005. It is about 1965 in terms of the French and British experience of immigration. Forty years on, let’s see how things are going in both places. July, and suicide mass murderers in London. More recently, in Birmingham, riots between Asians and Afro-Caribbeans, which were not designated “racial” by the police because no whites were involved, writes Kevin Myers

This is no doubt good news to the family of the black IT specialist Isaiah Sam-Young, who was knifed to death by Asians. So maybe they killed him because they didn’t like his shirt or his taste in music. Whatever it was, it apparently wasn’t his race. What a relief.

The French tend to wait for a longer time before they act, and then they explode, their revolution being their enduring template. Which does at least show that, in one regard anyway, the descendents of immigrants in France behave just like the aboriginal natives. So in what has been a virtual racial insurrection, hundreds of towns and cities have been hit by riots, with tens of thousands of cars destroyed, leaving big smiles only on the faces of Messrs Citroen and Renault.

The French way of dealing with immigrants was to deny there could be any difference in attitude or culture between the children of in-comers and those of the native French. The glories of French culture would embrace all with liberté, égalité et fraternité, but of course, like all ideological claptrap, such simple solutions didn’t work. However, the belief that La France in all its gloire, unlike perfidious Albion, was capable of seamless integration of immigrants prevented the French chattering classes from chattering about what desperately needed to be chattered about.

Meanwhile, across La Manche, perfidious Albion similarly refused to discuss immigration – not out of hubris, like the French, but a desire not to appear beastly, all because of a single disastrous speech by Enoch Powell.

Which doesn’t say much for the intellectual courage or imagination of the thinking classes in Britain. Thus Britain stayed silent as the immigrants poured in: and now, immigrant communities are many millions strong.

  • Skintown lad

    Is he saying that immigration in Ireland should be stopped, to prevent them becoming “many millions strong”?

  • seabhac siulach

    We are being told that by 2020 the South of Ireland will have a foreign born population of 1.5 million out of a total population of 5.5 million (Central Statistics Office numbers of 2005)…over 27% of the population so significantly more immigrants than either France or the UK at the moment, whatever Myers now says…
    So in only 15 years Ireland will change irreversibly…and to a greater extent than has been seen in any other European country outside of wartime (in my opinion).
    My worry is that little is being done in Ireland to educate the coming immigrants in Irish customs, history, language, etc.
    In addition, there have been calls to start publishing sections in newspapers in the languages of the coming immigrants. I am not sure that that is the way to go. Surely, the culture of the country must be maintained and the coming immigrants (while, welcome) must conform and adapt to the prevailing culture in the country, i.e. become Irish…(or more Irish than the Irish themselves…!)
    There is a real danger of ‘ghettoisation’, in which different ethnic groups gravitate to areas where their own countrymen/women are in a majority.
    Attention must be paid to this now, while it is an early stage so that this form of thing (i.e., the situation in France or the North of England) is avoided.
    In this way, the coming immigrants, living among indigenous Irish people, will have a better chance of assimilation.
    Laws should also be put in place to completely secularise the country in light of the large numbers of muslims, etc. coming in. Religion should be shown and be seen to be a personal choice and nothing to do with the politics of a country. We do not want to wake up at some point in the future with demands for sharia law to be proclaimed, for example! Only in this way can we avoid the scenes that we have seen recently in France/UK.

  • barnshee

    “We are being told that by 2020 the South of Ireland will have a foreign born population of 1.5 million out of a total population of 5.5 million (Central Statistics Office numbers of 2005)…over 27% ”

    Any chance of pushing that up a bit to say…..90%

  • seedot

    But seabhac, is that not one of the main criticisms of the French approach i.e. that assimilation not integration was the model and people were pushed to assimilate into a secular republic that (denied / ignored) any needs or differences of the large numbers of immigrants that came to France after the 2nd world war.

    It has been contrasted with the British multicultural model quite strongly which was criticised due to riots between immigrant communities?

    I’m not sure what a solution to this is – but saying Britain and France have had the same approach misses fairly key elements.

  • ‘“We are being told that by 2020 the South of Ireland will have a foreign born population of 1.5 million out of a total population of 5.5 million (Central Statistics Office numbers of 2005)…over 27% “’

    So 2020 is the year decided for re-unification then i see!

  • seabhac siulach

    barnshee:

    “Any chance of pushing that up a bit to say…..90%”

    Not sure what the point of your comment is…if it is that I am exaggerating, then I can assure you that I am not. These are verifiable statistics from the CSO, not off the top of my head.
    By the way, the 1.5 million number is just the number of foreign born people and does not include those born to immigrant parents (e.g., those causing the rioting in France these days).

    If it is that 90% will mean the elimination (in some way) of the Irish leaving you ‘british’ to your own devices then I am sorry to tell you that immigration will also severely impact on the North…
    I think immigration will shortly make the whole sectariansquabble in the 6 counties seem very ridiculous.

    seedot:

    I see no other solution but assimilation…what occurred in France was clearly not assimilation…it was ghettoisation with the notional idea of assimilation. I mean, proper assimilation in which each immigrant is immersed among indigenous Irish people…
    The same form of ghettoisation of immigrants also occurred in the UK in cities like Bradford,etc. Multiculturalism and integration/assimilation needs more than lip service or good intentions to make it work…laws need to be passed, decisions made now…

  • Brian Boru

    I share Myers’ concerned but our politicians down here refuse to debate this issue. Actually with around 135,000 PPS no.s issued to workers from the new EU member states – not including student visas, seasonal workers or non-EU work-permits, I think that the estimate of 1.5 million is an underestimate. 2 million is more accurate, which would equate by then to 33% of the population. I am concerned this could frustrate a UI by ensuring that a future Southern referendum would be decided by foreigners with no interest in Irish nationalist aims. Tighter controls are needed. I’m bewildered by how SF – a supposedly anti-partition party – can want virtually unrestricted immigration.

  • seedot

    seabhac, I’m not disagreeing with you just pointing out the difference between a monolithic vision of a republic that all citizens must conform to and a multicultural system with (supposedly) seperate but equal education etc. This has obvious implications on this island even ignoring immigrants – how to develop an inclusive society that caters for different cultures and even senses of national identity. Previously I would have supported the French model, especially things like secular education (headscarf ban) but reading about the disconnect between the citizens in the suburbs and the French state I don’t know now.

    Brian Boru: this whole argument is specious. It assumes that the pattern for the first year after EU enlargement when a large number of people became eligible to come to ireland and get a PPS will be the pattern for the next twenty. It also assumes that everybody who comes to Ireland will stay. Since I am friends with a couple from Latvia who are planning to move back next Spring having bought a house there, and these are the only Eastern Europeans I know well, this leads me to believe we will have no foreign workers here by next summer.

  • slug

    I am a great fan of more immigration. Since the population is small in Ireland (Republic of), its easy for the figure to go up to 50% or so.

  • No access to the rest of the article, but it seems to be the same line he has held for a number of years now, only this week he has chosen to pepper his prose with some gallicisms in the light of events in France. Nevertheless, he is right to highlight the need for a discussion on immigration.

    The problem until now, however, is that ‘discussing immigration’ here has meant nothing of the sort. In the public space it seems to mean discussing, in rather nebulous terms and with no suggestion that voices of recent immigrants ought to be included, how ‘we’ ought to limit the entry of Muslims, particularly those supposedly out to impose ‘their’ laws or culture on the rest of ‘we’ ‘indigenous’ people.

    (Despite the huge diversity in the Islamic world, Muslims seem to be the only group that gets explicitly identified. No-one ever seems to talk about how one ought to limit the entry of Africans or Chinese.)

    Furthermore, it seems to me that this discussion, at least from what appears in media, involves no small amount of references to caliphates, suicide bombings, female circumcision and Sharia law, and how ‘they’ will treat ‘us’, but nothing about the present treatment and welfare of recent immigrants to Ireland.

    (For an example, see this snippet by Eoghan Harris on how ‘we have no policy on integrating Muslim immigrants’ and how ‘every Muslim immigrant should be given a good grounding in Irish history and Western civilisation.’.)

    http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=36&si=1438366&issue_id=12779

    It is frustrating to see this idea cropping up so often that immigrants need to assimilate to Irish (or British – it doesn’t really matter), as if Irish culture were something that has always remained fixed and unchanged by other cultures, and as if Irish people did not have to lift a finger in assisting with this proposed assimilation. (Or as if Irish people themselves could somehow remain unchanged by the arrival of people from other countries.)

    I am all for a discussion on immigration, but there is little sign thus far the ‘intellectual courage and imagination’ to which Kevin Myers refers.

  • slug

    I favour the nonassimililation model. It is more realistic and more tolerant. It will bring and is bringing an exciting mix to Ireland (Republic of). If the % gets uup to 30% or more – what is there to fear?

  • Scotsman

    I am less than convinced by the 1.5million figure. The major European countries will have opened their labour markets to the Easterners by then. Why relocate to Ireland when you can just about commute to Austria, Germany, Italy, Denmark etc?

    Does anyone expect the strong economic growth of the past 10 years to continue for the next 15? I wouldn’t count on it…

  • maca

    for years our enemy was the british garrisons that occupied our land

    now it is the migrants

  • “maca”, get your own handle please.

    Mick, permission to “play the man”, Sir?

  • seabhac siulach

    Slug:

    “If the % gets uup to 30% or more – what is there to fear?”

    Ghettoisation with the associated fragmentation of society…I’m all for the ‘Benetton ad’ view of immigration but other countries experience does not hold out any great hope that Ireland will cope any better than, say, the Netherlands…where their attempts at multiculturalism have been deemed to be a well-meaning but grand failure…with large ghettos of non-Dutch speaking (even after 1st,2nd and 3rd generations) Turks (Turkish-Dutch) and Moroccans (Moroccan-Dutch) in major cities

    Hugh Green:

    “It is frustrating to see this idea cropping up so often that immigrants need to assimilate to Irish (or British – it doesn’t really matter), as if Irish culture were something that has always remained fixed and unchanged by other cultures, and as if Irish people did not have to lift a finger in assisting with this proposed assimilation.”

    Irish culture, as it is at the moment, is fairly fixed. For example, the GAA, pub culture, regional accents, Irish language, dancing, food, etc., etc. It is the result of hundreds of years of constant change. Of course, no culture is constant. But, neither can a single culture be expected to absorb the change being demanded of it in Ireland in so short a space of time…this is bound to lead to strains…

    I personally think the whole multiculturalism thing is largely bunk anyway…
    In any one country, for it to have any form of cohesion there must be (of course) one dominant culture, one dominant language, one accepted view of the world. Those who arrive must accept that dominant culture, while, of course, retaining elements of their existing culture. However, there can be no possibility that two or more strong cultures can coexist within the one polity….otherwise, why have a nation, why have a country? A country is after all merely a collectio of people with similar history, culture, etc. What is being asked for with mass immigration is fragmentation of the state.

    Of course, immigrants, being guests of the nation, effectively, should conform and assimilate to the wishes of the majority…
    Why is this thought to be intrinsically wrong?
    Perhaps, someone can explain?

    In your view, Hugh Green, no assimilation is necessary…groups of immigrants from different backgrounds can suddenly (over a period of 10 years) appear in Irish society, group together for comfort and support, in localised areas, and this will lead to, what, social stability? Despite all our best liberal intentions this will lead to chaos unless properly handled.

  • seedot

    But would assimilation work on this island anyway, regardless of immigrants? Surely the republic (in the sense given in this definition from wikipedia: “a republic is a state or country that is led by people that don’t base their political power on any principle beyond the control of the people living in that state or country.”) needs to renew itself to reflect all the citizens.

    The impact of a couple of hundred thousand, very diverse, immigrants is as nothing to the impact of 1 million people who many feel should be invited into the republic who have a single, clearly different culture to the ‘Gaa, Irish Language and the pub’ view of Irishness you espuse.

    Barriers to immigration tend not to impact on migration rates – but rather on integration. I think we need to look at what are the core values and what values should be pluralistic e.g. no FGM but Halaal meat is OK. Singing the sash is OK but we should stamp out rugby. We need to accept that a true republic will be constantly changing – and the changes that we’ll need by 2016 will be influenced only partly by immigrants if the timetable some have set is to be met.

  • Brian Boru

    “It is frustrating to see this idea cropping up so often that immigrants need to assimilate to Irish (or British – it doesn’t really matter), as if Irish culture were something that has always remained fixed and unchanged by other cultures, and as if Irish people did not have to lift a finger in assisting with this proposed assimilation. (Or as if Irish people themselves could somehow remain unchanged by the arrival of people from other countries.)

    I am all for a discussion on immigration, but there is little sign thus far the ‘intellectual courage and imagination’ to which Kevin Myers refers. ”

    Well Hugh, I think Westerners are entitled to protect their way of life from Sharia law. We don’t want honour killings (supported by 37% in Turkey according to latest polls), the reducing of women to second-class citizens (as in most Muslim countries) or executions for “adultery”. All of these are rampant in the Muslim world, and polls confirm Muslim immigrants tend to bring these archaic ideas with them. Muslims immigrants should assimilate. I don’t want Ireland run by an Ayatollah or Supreme Leader thank you very much. That is not what 1916 was about!

  • Brian Boru

    And the media reports that thousands of Muslim members of ethnic-minorities in the UK have travelled to AQ training camps in Pakistan is hardly encouraging.

  • exBangorBoy

    I haven’t seen much mention in the all the debate about the French problems, and of the need for more immigation to Ireland, of the Canadian experience.

    Multiculturalism became official federal gov’t policy under the Trudeau administration in the mid 1970s and has, in most Canadians’ opinion, worked well. Canada decided to go the multicultural route as opposed to the “melting pot” model followed by the US.

    I live in a city (Toronto) that is home to a tremendous number of immigrants and “visible minorities”; actually that is an out-of-date term in Toronto as the city now is less than 50% “white”. By and large, there is almost no racial tension here (and in Canada in general). [The shameful exception is our approach to our aboriginal population…but that is another rant.]

    One of the reasons may be that there is no one defined group that is the “other” here; certainly not in the sense that you see in Northern Ireland and France. If a Torontonian were inclined like Enoch Powell, who would you rail against? The 10% of the population that is of Chinese origin? The large south Asian population? The African and Caribean communities? The increasingly visible Latin cultures? We had four lots of family and friends out from Northern Ireland this summer, most of whom had not been to Toronto before, and they all commented on the variety of humanity walking the streets.

    Why has Canada been more successful at integrating immigrants than France? Maybe it helps that Canada doesn’t come with the “historical baggage” of old-world Europe…I don’t know. I will leave it to the scholars and pundits to debate that. All I can report is that it is possible to integrate immigrants and have a prosperous and stable society where (almost) everyone feels they have a stake.

  • slug

    Good points. In the UK Leicester will soon be minority white while London is very high % of the non-UK born. If Dublin gets to 50% non-Irish born what is the problem with this? Nothing.

    “Ghettoes” is a negative term. Toronto is an example of the exciting outcome when your city is majority non-white. Lots of areas each with their own character. If Ireland (Republic of) becomes more like that then all for the good.

  • Sean

    A few things worth noting:

    Canada and Australia are models worth emulating,
    both have selective (to economically active) and limited emigration at a pace that allows assimilization to happen. It also maintains support for the concept as the native populations can clearly see the economic ( and cultural) benefits.

    Australia is particularly encourage regional dispersal, Ireland should also focus on this.

    Irish solutions to Irish opportunities,a notice in my local paper in the Spring read pharaphased
    “Could employers please ensure that foreign workers attend a meeting in the local GAA clubrooms to discuss playing football, provide transport if necessary”. I think the GAA as the largest sporting organisation in the land should also launch a top down initiative.

    Why Sinn Fein should opposed the freedom of workers in Europe to ply their trade where ever the best opportunities lie? If you are a socialist party, then you should support the right of all workers including the foreign born.

    Eastern European’s sharing a social life based around alcohol and music and broadly the same flavours of religion will hopefully intergrate and stay. Government efforts should focus on people from cultures a bit more different from the Irish

  • swordfish

    I haven’t written a poem in a very long time,
    Can’t explain why it would take too long,
    I had a dream,
    Cheesy and pickled I don’t deny,
    Been away from Belfast for a long time,
    Met lots of people worldwide,
    Christ there is conflict,
    Women cutting off clitorises,
    And so called men gangbanging children,
    Jesus I think of home,
    I miss it,
    The times,
    The memories of growing up,
    Country men from the next street,
    Blowing the fuck out of hotels and women,
    Hatred they say,
    Fenians and blue nose huns,
    Jesus I love them all,
    Why can’t they love each other,
    Such a misery of parades and paradox,
    They have so much in common,
    They live on the other side of that big grey peace divide,
    In the summer they throw bricks and shit over the fence at each other,
    There is a passion for guns, death, Ulster, Ireland, and decency,
    Everything is relative,
    Forget the fact they cut their own peoples spines out and prostitute their own children by selling drugs,
    They have lots in common,
    Why can’t they just shake hands, hug,
    Abuse boys in a home and forget it all happened…?