The recent publication of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission research into public attitudes towards immigration and immigrants
from different ethnic backgrounds has highlighted the extent to which the Government has ignored the need to build and foster an inclusive society.
The research shows how attitudes towards immigrants changed once the recession commenced. According to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI), which carried out the research, public perceptions of immigration and immigrants were largely positive from 2002 to 2006.
This changed from 2008 onwards with perceptions being very negative in 2010 and then improving slowly as the economy recovered. This finding demonstrates a correlation between attitudes towards immigration and the state of the economy.
As the Irish economy continues to grow and with employment levels rising, attitudes to immigration appear to be more positive. But we should be deeply concerned that the research highlights differing attitudes towards immigration from specific racial and ethnic groups.
Almost 60% of Irish-born people reported they would allow many or some immigrants from members of the same ethnic group as most Irish people to come to Ireland. But the equivalent figures for Muslim and Roma migrants were 41% per cent and 25% respectively.
“The international literature suggests there is a greater perception of cultural threat around Muslim immigration than to immigrants of the same ethnic group. Resistance to Roma migration reflects a widespread prejudice against this group across Europe. Support for Muslim and Roma immigration is lower in Ireland than the average for the ten Western European countries presented,” it says.
In terms of beliefs about race and ethnicity, just under half of adults born in Ireland believe some cultures to be superior to others, while 45% say that some races and ethnic groups are born harder working. A much lower proportion, 17%, believe that some races or ethnic groups were born less intelligent.