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    Does emigration make us sympathetic to immigrants?

    By Noreen Bowden | July 13, 2010

    This editorial on emigration and immigration in the Irish Examiner is way off the mark. It starts off reasonably enough, noting that our “cyclical dependency on emigration is our greatest social failure since the foundation of the state”. It goes on to highlight some of the more painful aspects of emigration. And then it says:

    This emotional evisceration has marked Ireland, but it has left us with an understanding of the separation and loss central to economic emigration. That understanding is at the root of the relative ease at which very many of those who came to this country to build new lives found places for themselves and their families. There has been exploitation and it continues today but, by and large, racism has not become a huge issue. It is recognised that we cannot expect the emigrant Irish to find a warm welcome in their new homes, if we do not extend the same generosity to those who choose to live here.

    This is a problematic leap: The notion that the people who remain in Ireland and make up the bulk of Irish society have developed a particular empathy with migrants, whether inward or outward, is highly questionable. Many Irish commentators regard the Irish abroad with an attitude of gaping incomprehension. We think so little of our Irish abroad that we take away their right to vote as soon as they emigrate. It is only in the last decade that we took any responsibility for the welfare of our vulnerable citizens abroad – for decades we benefited from the generosity of emigrants with their remittances, while ignoring those who might have needed our help.

    And 80% of us responded to an increasing number of immigrants in the country by changing our constitution to remove the automatic entitlement to citizenship of all children born in the State. It took only about a decade of net inward migration to make us alter one of our most basic notions of who can be part of our society.┬áIt’s difficult to see any generosity in that move.

    And the notion that we in Ireland would seek to treat our own immigrants well in the hope that somehow (through an act of karmic justice, say) our emigrants would find a warmer welcome abroad is just bizarre. Is there any evidence to suggest that we who stay at home contemplate the warmth of the welcome that our young people experience? If we did, perhaps we might be more troubled by the fact that funding to emigrant groups was cut by 14% in the last budget, during a time of rising outward migration.

    Topics: Latest News | 1 Comment »

    One Response to “Does emigration make us sympathetic to immigrants?”

    1. George Dillon Says:
      September 16th, 2010 at 8:20 pm

      I have lived abroad for a number of years. I have also read a great deal about the history of Irish emigration. None of this has made me feel that Fianna Fail’s policy of Open Door Mass Immigration was a good idea for our country. It was set to benefit the rich at the expense of Irish workers, and we will never overcome the damage done in the past decade. I will always oppose the settlement of Ireland by foreigners. If you think Mass Immigration is a good idea, ask an American Indian. Or a Palestinian.