Integration Issues


Anyone with a sense of the news cycle can’t help but notice that certain topics recur as favourites for discussion and controversy.

For a country like Ireland, which was for so long ethnically singular, few matters are as urgent as immigration and the need to integrate our new permanent residents into our communities for the benefit of all. As the population has risen, areas of Dublin – particularly in the inner city, have become segregated along ethnic and cultural lines. What is being done to remedy these divisions?

NewsFour spoke with Helena Clarke, media officer for the Integration Centre, recently relocated to Upper Dorset Street. She characterised the situation as difficult, “The boom years and the influx of people from abroad led to the setting up of structures like the National
Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI). Now these structures have been dismantled for economic reasons. Even in schools, the English as a second language provision has been cut. The Adult Refugee Programme (which provided English requirements for non-native adults) was closed in 2012.”

It’s easy to paint a grim picture, as Helena lays out the obstacles provided by the economic downturn and the political reversal that it has created in some attitudes toward immigrants. What are the possible solutions? “We need a National Framework, there’s no overarching policy. One positive move could be to take the matter out of the hands of the Justice ministry and place it with a junior minister who specialises exclusively on these matters – possibly with the Minister for the Environment. Like environmental action, these matters can only be handled locally, with direct community involvement, co-ordinated nationally. Ruairi Quinn’s call for Patronage and Pluralism could be a good start.”

One ray of sunshine is the Educate Together organisation. Educate Together work directly with communities to create activist and lobbyist groups for the founding of multi-denominational schools.

NewsFour spoke with John Holohan, their Head of Communications. “There has been a group actively lobbying for a mixed denomination school in Dublin 4, specifically the Sandymount/Ringsend area since 2011. The real issue is the allocation of grounds and a building. In areas like Dublin 4, there is significant demand for these schools but land to build on is scarce. The onus is on organisations like the Catholic Church to assent to release a percentage of their existing property, to be put to new use. This is known as Patronage Reassignment.”

The Department of Education confirmed recently that the new school will open in time for September 2014. The pre-enrolment list opened in May 2012 and currently has over 450 children on a list to start schooling between 2014 and 2017. The hope for an ethnically-diverse and integrated city rests on the possibility of the shared experiences of a next generation.

By Ruairi Conneely