Monday 3 December 2007

The united colours of...

Ireland. For centuries, the island of Ireland has always been a peripheral figure in European affairs. The Norsemen came and went, as did the Spanish and finally the English (the French did try themselves but failed miserably). They tried to mould it in their own image, but try as they might the Irish remained a proud nation, steadfast in their desire to remain subordinate to no one. It has suffered its fair share of hardship, discrimination, economic destitution and revolution. Its denizens became caricatured as boorish drunkards, ne'er do wells who are abhorred in polite society. There was a mushrooming of Irish ghettoes in Boston and New York. This stereotyping persisted in time for a while right up till the emergence of the EU bloc and the birth of the Celtic tiger that we know so well today.

From being a demographically homogeneous society (aside from the Catholic/Protestant schism), the island nation now sees an unprecedented influx of immigrants of all religion and races. Most recent arrivals include immigrants of African and Eastern European origin. The fact that progress has occurred over just a decade makes the change even more distinct rather than subtle. The good times are here and Ireland needed every able-bodied man or woman to quench its thirst for manpower. As more of the Irish became affluent, low-paying and unwanted jobs became the domain of the foreigner.

As we reach the end of the economic growth cycle, with the global climate of uncertainty growing, the Irish landscape could now face a different challenge, one that will certainly test the very fabric of its being. Immigration will probably be tightened and access to social services curtailed in certain cases. Whither new Ireland?

Perhaps the key ingredient in all societies is the systematic integration of its population and the complete elimination of ignorance. Ignorance which will breed fear, ensuring the rise of bigotry and hate.

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