Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Reshaping Communities in the Republic of Ireland

Photo © Irish Independent
Community service and care is an ever-growing area that governments in Western societies are deciding to pour more money into each year. It takes more than money to help a community develop. Beyond the financial needs of any community there exists a 'soul' within them that requires recognition and needs to be addressed. Communities are made up of individuals and groups of people who have settled into the area and may be themselves second or third generation residents. From an anthropological point of view communities exist within several degrees and levels. From the general community spirit of a city (i.e. proud New Yorkers) to that of the general neighborhood (i.e. Harlem in New York) to even that of community spirit of a work place. (i.e. A hospital or school for instance)

Photo © Pandaemonium
Regardless of its size, communities help shape our understanding of who we are and maintain our overall identity. They allow us to feel secure within our environment and help its members to distinguish themselves from other communities. Without communities a sense of solidarity can not be achieved and may lead to conflict between groups, individuals and indeed even within one's own understanding of who they are as the question of identity becomes blurred. North America has begun to take for granted the changes that took place over the last fifty years in both Canada and the United States. The path was laid down by previous generations of groups and individuals who in many cases gave their lives to help shape these two countries into what they are. However although there is still much work to be done in the way of creating and sustaining feasible community development throughout both countries there are others still, particularly the Republic of Ireland that has a long way to go before they are truly a multi-cultural country.

Beyond The Celtic Tiger

Photo © The Telegraph
The Republic of Ireland has experienced enormous wealth and prosperity over the last two decades since earning its nickname 'the Celtic Tiger' in the nineteen-nineties. As a result of its inception into the European Union and its 'open door' policy to the rest of the European Union in 2004 it has had a considerable amount of immigration from Europe over the course of the last four years. Keeping in mind that Ireland itself is a country made up of only four million citizens any change in population from immigration or emigration is felt almost immediately by local communities.

Photo © Residents Against Racism
According to The Sunday Times and in an article written by Mark Tighe illustrates how in "... in the first national survey to measure the experiences of immigrants in Ireland, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found [in 2006] that 35% of immigrants had been verbally harassed on the street while 32% had the same experience at work." As was the case in North America with the influx of Irish immigrants at the turn of the twentieth-century racism has become apparently abundant in what was once considered to be 'the land of a hundred thousand welcomes." As with every society in the world the inevitable competition for work and resources has led to an otherwise placid culture becoming overwhelmed by several different nationalities.

Community Development

Conor Lenihan (pictured left), the new minister for integration in the Republic of Ireland is the first to be appointed to this role. As it is only now that action to provide this role has been taken, it should not be surprising that progress is going to be slow. Ireland, formally a country of emigrants has now become a haven for immigrants. With 40% of immigrants claiming that they plan to settle in Ireland permanently it is Mr. Lenihan's job to ensure that the next decade is marked with understanding and acceptance. A colossal task for any government to undertake and it is hoped that the Irish government will indeed learn from the mistakes of those countries like Canada and the United States and be more successful.

Ireland is as proud as it is divided between its various counties. Steeped in a rich history the country still holds onto its labels and opinions of each other's counties much in the same way as it did two hundred years ago. It is a country made up of two different kinds of people today as new generations of Irish are often claimed to have lost their values, victims of the Celtic Tiger. Couple that with its 'new neighbors' from the rest of Europe and you have a country that seems bent on struggling within itself before it can truly begin to make progress of integrating non-nationals.

Community development is a monumental task that has begun to be undertaken by several non-profit organizations in Ireland. Funded in part by government schemes at times whilst relying on the generosity of the community in others areas such as Carlow Town in Co. Carlow have already begun to change over the course of the last four years. The Polish Community, for instance has begun taking many parts of Ireland by storm. Polish shops have opened up everywhere negating the need to rely on Irish hospitality whilst still other non-nationals including Lithuanians, Romanians, Germans and Russians to name but a few have begun taking residence in all but the most secluded of areas in Ireland.

The need to understand 'the other' has never been greater and like it or not Ireland has been given the responsibility of ensuring that its present and future generations are able to absorb the influx of non-nationals whilst allowing for their own identity to change so much as to become tolerant and accepting of other cultures. Globalization is perhaps the culprit in necessitating this change but it is perhaps an inevitable one as the fate of all countries have become intricately dependent on each other for survival into the twenty-first century.


Tighe, Mark. Actress Flees Ireland after Racist Abuse. In The Sunday Times. July 29, 2007

Nota Bene: The above article was originally published in 2007 through Suite 101.com now known as Suite.io.  

Corbin, M.R.J.  (August 8, 2007), Reshaping Communities in Ireland: Building Understanding Within a Multi-Cultural Irish Republic.  In Social Anthropology.  Creative Marketeam Canada Ltd. Suite101.com.  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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