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Posted: 25 April 2007

Immigrants and ethnic minorities remain unrepresented by Irish parliamentary politics, says new report

A new report has called for Irish political parties to show a real commitment towards the political integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities ahead of the 2009 local government elections where voting rights will depend on residency rather than citizenship.

According to the report published by the Migration and Citizenship Research Initiative (MCRI) at UCD, behind the political rhetoric of inclusion and integration, there is little tangible commitment by Irish Political parties towards the integration of immigrant communities into the political system.

Irish political parties remain among the least diverse, the least responsive, and the least capable groups of leading by example when it comes to representing the diversity of twenty-first century Irish society.

“This situation is unsustainable and potentially dangerous to social cohesion in the longer term” says Dr Bryan Fanning from UCD School of Applied Social Science, one of the authors of the report - Irish Political Parties, Immigration and Integration 2007. “If this continues it will lead to the political marginalisation of immigrant communities and foster alienation from mainstream Irish society.”

With 2006 Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures showing almost 420,000 non-Irish living in the Republic of Ireland (approximately 112,500 of whom are UK citizens), a substantial segment of the Irish population is unrepresented by parliamentary politics. (Aside from those from the UK, non-Irish citizens resident in the state can not vote in the general election).

“During the research all of the parties expressed positive attitudes to the contribution of immigrants to Irish society. But support for integration ‘in theory’ does not translate into integration in practice,” says Dr Fanning.

The report suggests that Irish political parties find it difficult to assess the efforts they have made to reach out to immigrants and members of ethnic minorities. “This might be explained by the absence of appropriate monitoring systems,” says Dr Fanning. “But it is clear that there is an urgent need for well-managed outreach, clear targets and monitoring of progress.”

During the research, several of the political parties identified a manifesto commitment to put in place a Minister of State with responsibility for Immigrant Affairs.

The report was co-authored by Professor Jo Shaw, School of Law, University of Edinburgh, and Jane-Ann O’Connell and Marie Williams, Migration and Citizenship Research Initiative (MCRI), UCD. The research took place between November 2006 and March 2007. It examined the responses of the six main political parties to immigrants and immigration in the run up to the 2007 general election.

The full report is available at

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