Ireland has always been known as the country of ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’ with its rolling green hills and receptive population.
However, I must challenge how genuine this image still is.

According to recent surveys and censuses, the Irish public are slowly developing a more negative and pessimistic view of immigration, or are they? Albeit the majority still believe that the arrival of immigrants has had a positive effect on Ireland or made no difference, the number of those who believe immigrants have had a negative effect on Ireland has risen from 33% in 2008 to 37% in 2015 and that percentage continues to grow today.

Yet, these surveys are also revealing how not all immigrants migrating to Ireland are equal. According to these studies, those coming from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (all other Anglophone countries similar to Ireland) are seen as having a more constructive contribution to Irish society and being better integrated.

If I was to speak strictly on the views of different nationalities migrating to Ireland from within the European Economic Area, the British are continuously seen as model Irish immigrants being rated the highest for integration into Ireland and being looked upon the fondest. Following the British, immigrants originating from Western European countries, think France, Germany, the Netherlands, or Italy, are viewed as also making a positive contribution to Irish society and integrating on the same level as those from other Anglophone countries such as the U.S. The states of which are believed to be integrating the poorest into Ireland are those originating from Central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Lithuania, Romania, or Latvia.
With this information, one would assume that Ireland and Irish people are developing into a country less welcoming to immigrants from certain backgrounds, however these statistics are not the full story. Further studies have also shown that the percentage of the Irish public who believe Immigrants from countries previously stated as being the worst for integration are also accredited for getting better at integrating!

So maybe the future of Ireland and its new arrivals isn’t a downward spiral. Over half of the public agree that many immigrants are not halfway towards being fully integrated into Irish society, but believe that they see promise and a willingness too and agree more should be done in helping the transition into Irish society less isolating and trying, such as providing free language classes and/or classes to educate new immigrants on Irish law, the Irish education system and general culture and history surrounding the country. The main barriers to integration reported during these surveys were language skills and a low level of English, this is an issue easily solved by providing basic aid in the form of English classes for new immigrants into the country.

These small changes can have a detrimental effect on Ireland and the Irish people and their relationships with new workers and families arriving on our shores. Having a good, strong relationship with those in different communities and cultures coming to Ireland has never been so important as it is now, as over 11.8% of the Irish population are from abroad meaning Ireland has the sixth highest number of foreign nationals in Europe and according to the data those who make up the largest percentages are the Poles, Lithuanians, and Latvians.

Whether the high numbers of foreign nationals in Ireland are concerning or not, is arbitrary, but what isn’t arbitrary is understanding that the isolation and rejection of these foreign nationals that are here to stay will lead to nothing productive except more hostile environments in the future.
I would like to see a future where Ireland remains the home of
‘A hundred thousand welcomes’

Céad Míle Fáilte

by Sarah Jane Hayes Martindale