[EN] Video Transcript

Hello everyone. My name is Piaras Mac Éinri, and I’m a lecturer in Geography, and a specialist in migration and integration studies, at University College Cork in Ireland. I also work with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in this city. 

It’s an honour and a privilege to be asked to comment, with particular reference to the Irish data, on the latest iteration of the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Report on intercultural Trends in the Euro-Med region. This is a very valuable and fascinating survey which provides first-class data with which we can compare and contrast attitudes across a range of European and Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries. 

A word first about Ireland. It’s an outlier in European terms, we only achieved independence about a century ago. Until the recent past, it could best be described as poor and peripheral, underdeveloped and mostly rural. Its main export, for generations, was people. Attitudes were conservative and conformist and the status of women was not equal to that of men.

The past 30 years, by contrast, have seen a huge change. Investment in education has transformed the country and the economy. EU membership, inward investment and now immigration have made Ireland a very different place – 14% of the population of my city of Cork, for instance, were born outside the country, while nearly half of all recent emigrants from Ireland have returned. There has been an accompanying social and cultural revolution, notably concerning the status of women and in the creation of a more open and tolerant society. 

I want to briefly mention just four points in the Survey which are relevant to these changes and which illustrate them in different ways. 

The first one concerns perceptions about women’s roles in society. That role used to be a very traditional one, for instance women who were employed in the State sector had to resign on marriage – they were not able to continue with their work. That’s gone now and we find, by contrast, strong support for a greater role by women in public life – in government, in business, in science and technology, culture, sports, media and education. 

That does not mean that women’s work in the home is not still appreciated – it is, and the data in the survey brings that out very clearly. But it also raises a question, of course, for men  – in return for supporting a greater role for women in society in general, are they – the men – willing to play a more active role in the home as well?

Secondly, key values when raising children. We used to have a rather conformist system here which emphasised obedience, family and religion, above all else, and now we’ve seen a certain change in attitudes there. So we find, for instance, that one of the highest values is respect for other cultures, and we also find an emphasis on independent thinking and curiosity as significant values to inculcate in children in the education system. 

The more secular nature of modern Irish society is reflected in a somewhat reduced importance attached to religion, and of course there we are in line with other European countries, but perhaps we differ to some extent from the southern and eastern Mediterranean partners that were part of this survey as well. 

A third question concerned religious and cultural diversity and tolerance. Again, 86% of those surveyed – and that’s higher than the average figures for the other countries taking part in this survey - agreed that people of different cultural and religious backgrounds should have the same rights and opportunities and that diversity is important for the prosperity of society. 

Now, we should also say that a substantial minority – 40% - saw such diversity as a potential threat to society – this is still a new experience in this country and we haven’t become fully acclimated to it yet. But 90% or more would accept a person of a different cultural background as a work colleague, in schools, as neighbours or as members of our own families.

Finally, there is one interesting statistic which stands out here. When asked, ‘If you could start a new life, in which country of the world would you start it?’, up to half of the other European and Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries said ‘their own country’, which, I suppose, is what you’d expect. But in the Irish case only 18% chose Ireland as their first country of choice in that particular question. 

There is an interesting point there I think, which is that the tradition of emigration as a default option, which has been with us for centuries, is still a deeply rooted part of our culture.

Thank you very much!