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The changing face of Ireland 5/2/01
So adieu, my dear father, Adieu, my
dear father, Farewell to my sister,
Farewell to my brother. I am bound
for America, My fortune to try,
When I think on Bunclody, I'm ready
Irish history echoes with
sad farewells, but for the first
time more people are arriving in
Ireland than leaving. Tradition is being
turned on its head. Dun Laoghaire -
until recently one of the main
for Irish workers. They set off to
try their luck elsewhere. But not
any more. The traffic is going the other
way. This is a new experience for
Ireland, as for the first time its
ports are seeing a huge influx of
foreign workers. Here are some new
arrivals, fresh from the heat of
the Philippines. They're being
welcomed at St Michael's Hospital
in Dun Laoghaire, where staffing
levels are on the critical list.
UNNAMED WOMAN 2:
Believe it or not, we're not so different.
50 years ago my parents would have
emigrated to Britain and a lot of my
relatives would have gone to
the United States.
Just five years
ago, Ireland was sending nurses
abroad, but they're now in such
short supply that Irish hospitals
travel the globe in search of
recruits. In Dublin alone, there
are 1,200 vacancies. These two will be
in Ireland for the next two years.
Both will sell their money home to
help their families. For Guadalina,
the pain of parting from her young
daughter is almost too much to bear.
It's really difficult, especially
when I saw my daughter saying
bye-bye to me.
How old is your daughter?
Going four this April. It's really difficult
to be far from them, but I really have to
face the fact, the truth of life.
Which is that you need this money?
Yes, really, really.
The population of Ireland
is visibly changing as the roar of
its tiger economy reverberates. In
1999, 6,000 people from outside the
EU came in on special permits. Last
year that multiplied to 18,000.
This year 30,000 are expected. The
rate of change is breath-taking.
IRISH BUSINESS & EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION
We do need people to come here,
with high, medium and low skills.
In society generally, this is a new
issue. I'd be very concerned that
Ireland would not be open and
tolerant, as one would expect. We
have a history of being a very open
and tolerant society. There is a
view emerging and there is some
evidence emerging that there are
quite a degree of racist tensions
beginning to develop in Ireland.
From a business perspective,
that could be extremely damaging.
I was just coming in this direction
and I saw three men...
There are no official figures, but the
experience of Gabriel Okenla on
this Dublin street isn't isolated.
They dragged me by my shirt - "Hey
come here, nigger! What the hell do
you want in this country? We don't
want any black people here. What
are you looking for? You're not
supposed to be here." They started
pushing me, kicking me and trying
to make some punches into my face.
Gabriel is a student from London.
He also works for a group that
supports Africans living in Ireland.
In every ten black people,
you will see six who have been
racially attacked or been the
victim of racially motivated
incidents. We don't feel comfortable
to walk on the streets. We don't
feel comfortable to do anything.
We are being denied the opportunity
of even going to the club or the pub,
on the basis of our colour.
The attacks that are being reported
have a common theme.
The victims are accused of being
illegal immigrants, in Ireland to
ride the economic tiger. In the
last few years, Ireland has seen a
surge in asylum applications, from
just nine a decade ago,
to nearly 11,000 last year. The
debate about how to respond
has been fierce, perhaps even more
so than in Britain. While every
effort is being made to get foreign
workers over here, asylum seekers
are being met with tough new
legislation designed to put them
off. In November, the rules for
asylum seekers were tightened
considerably. They are now banned
from working, they are housed in
hostels and journalists can only
interview them with written
permission from the government.
Ireland's indigenous travellers
have long complained that they are
the victims of racism, but many
asylum seekers see themselves as
the new focus
of resentment. Jackie Healy-Rae is
a member of the Irish Parliament.
He's an Independent and part of the
ruling coalition. He says his
constituents in the rural west of
Ireland feel the country can't cope
with so many asylum seekers.
From outside of Ireland, they know now
that we are were a soft touch. The
big problem is that we're all
afraid the system will be
overcrowded. Just take the county
where I come from - County Kerry.
In the town of Killarney alone we
have a housing list with 300 people
waiting to be housed. If 50 or 100
refugees move in, they will also go
on the list, so in a year's time we
could have 400 or 500 of these
people in Killarney looking for a house.
The country accepted all these
people up to a point. Now we
realise we have gone overboard and
we have too many people accepted.
We're not going to continue down
the road of having an open door
all the time.
But Ireland is changing and schools
are to be the focus of a new initiative to
Why do you want to seek asylum here?
Mohammed, a refugee from Somalia,
has been invited here to teach these
sixth-formers about immigration and
I've come to your country
to seek security.
Is this really you?
Yes, it is me.
How can I believe that? It doesn't
look like you?
Most of these teenagers, who
will be leaving school this summer,
have never met a black person
I have seen them on
television and maybe in the street,
but never approached them.
UNNAMED GIRL 2:
It's happening fast all right. But when
people come and talk to you and
explain what's going on... There is
a lot about the whole issue in the
media and newspapers, and we're
seeing what's happening. People are
coming to terms with it. We just
have to come to terms
with it quicker.
If you introduce
the idea of multi-culture at a
young age - if you have a black
person - half black, half white -
in a classroom at a very young age,
they'll get to see that as normal,
and they won't be nearly as racist
in their remarks or in their ideas.
To help ensure that all new
arrivals get the warmest welcome,
the government has passed new
equal rights legislation. It's
being followed up with
a campaign to raise awareness.
JOHN O'DONOGHUE TD:
IRISH JUSTICE MINISTER
I want people to learn the benefits
of diversity, and appreciate the
advantages of inter-culturalism. I
want to see a smooth integration of
people who are found to be refugees
into Irish society.
Personally, what do you think about
this change that's going on in Irish society?
It is a change
which we are going to have to learn
to live with and a change which we
are going to have to learn to
appreciate. But I don't believe
that anybody can expect the Irish
people, no more than they would
expect any other state, to accept
people on an open border policy.
The border's certainly been wide
open for Dun Laoghaire's Filipino
nurses and for the others on
foreign work permits, but the rest
are finding it increasingly hard to
cross. The new Celtic prosperity is
coming at a price - sweeping
cultural and social changes, which
people here are only just beginning
to come to terms with.