I strongly support a multi-cultural, multi-faith Ireland, where people from all parts of the world can lead fulfilling lives in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance. To this end, I support integration facilities and programmes which seek to bring together people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
I also condemn discrimination and harassment of any kind and am committed to helping my constituents on these points. Fingal is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse parts of Ireland – and that is what makes it such a great place to live!
I feel that I am particularly qualified to act on immigration, because I myself am ‘a third-generation immigrant’ of a particular kind: my grandparents, my mother and I all spent our adult lives in a country other than our country of origin. Before I received Irish citizenship in 2012, I spent over a dozen years living as a non-national in Europe, and therefore I am well acquainted with the difficulties and challenges associated with immigration. Unlike me, my mother and grandparents did not leave their country of origin voluntarily, and their experiences have influenced my understanding of immigration as well.
It is very difficult to move to a new country, particularly when you know that there is not a realistic chance that you will ever return to your country of origin. Adapting to a new culture and learning a new language as an adult is much harder than it looks – but the worst part in the beginning is the sheer loneliness. It is important that people show some degree of compassion and understanding for others going through these difficult circumstances. Many of my policy points are aimed at making this initial step easier for those immigrating by sparing them the additional traumas of family separation, racist abuse and endless paperwork.
At the same time immigration is a source of great potential wealth that Ireland as a country should be harnessing to the full. Immigrants bring many advantages to the nation, such as trade links, unique work experience, high levels of education and language abilities. Foreign nationals and nationals with non-Irish backgrounds are a cultural bridge between Ireland and other nations. Integrating and harnessing the energy of non-Irish nationals and the new Irish is thus probably one of the greatest investments that Ireland can make in its future.
Details / Frequently Asked Questions
I think that Ireland is one of the most generous and welcoming countries in the world. Nonetheless, there are several persistent myths about immigration, which I would like to clear up below.
- “Immigration is fine when the economy is booming, but when things are rough immigrants should go back where they came from because Irish people need to be looked after first. This does not mean we are racist.”
This does mean you are racist. Preferring one individual to another because of their genetic make-up is the very definition of racism. There are many things wrong with this statement:
- Ireland has actually been haemorrhaging foreign nationals (80,000 of them in 2012 and 2013 alone), so rest assured that many foreign residents are leaving.
- Beyond that, there is absolutely no reason at all why someone who has maintained citizenship in their country of origin should be required to vacate their job and home in their country of residence and leave their friends behind them, because someone from the preferred ethnic background ‘needs a job’. Non-Irish nationals and new Irish also need jobs and it is not their mission in life to keep jobs warm in case an ethnically Irish person some day needs them. This sentiment completely contradicts any idea of fairness or meritocracy.
- Furthermore, this is a recipe for extreme instability and also a failure to recognize that individuals are not interchangeable. You cannot simply remove 200,000 foreign workers from your workforce, replace them with indigenous workers and expect things to function as before.
- “It’s different in places like Canada and Australia, because there is a lot of space there.”
This may have been true ca. 1860, but the vast majority of immigrants today move to urban areas and work for multinational corporations. Very few foreign nationals in Ireland are setting up hundred acre farms, so ‘space’ has nothing to do with it. No one is letting immigrants into Canada or the US as a means of completing some mysterious internal decorating programme, but rather out of humanitarian or economic reasons.
- “People are just here to drag out the asylum process and mooch off the welfare system.”
While asylum fraud does exist and Irish refugee officials could certainly benefit from better training, seeking asylum and being denied permission to work are soul-crushing, depression-inducing experiences that few people would voluntarily put themselves through. Incidentally, non-EU nationals pay into the social welfare system without ever standing a realistic chance of collecting, because it is very difficult to retain residency without actually being in employment. On the whole immigrants tend to be net contributors rather than net collectors.
- “Non-Irish people do not understand what it is like to be Irish and are diluting our culture. You’re not ‘really’ Irish.”
The ‘not really Irish’ statement is probably one of the most hurtful and humiliating things you can say to an immigrant – someone who may have spent years adapting to your language and culture. Culture is a dynamic and changing term. At one point in time, everything we take for granted today was new – including things that count as ‘very Irish’, like the potato (from South America), the Catholic religion (from Rome), rugby (England, I’m afraid) and red hair (probably brought to us courtesy of the Vikings). Few people today would want to return to the prevailing Irish culture of 100 or 1000 years ago. Immigration is part of that changing process. It brings new things to a country, which may or may not catch on and become assimilated into the prevailing narrative of the nation. When someone has an Irish passport, that person is Irish, whether their skin is white, brown, black or purple with pink polka dots. This is also true regardless of what their personal priorities on the culture front are. That being said, many immigrants are more into Irish culture than people born and raised in the country.