If you've seen the recent Irish film Once -- which just won an Oscar for best song -- you may understand how much the social fabric of Ireland has been changing over the last 10 years. In the film, an Irish street performer falls for a young Czech immigrant, who lives with her mother and daughter in a small flat, shares one TV set with her entire building in a poor Dublin neighborhood, and sells flowers in the street to make ends meet. Although living in difficult circumstances, the immigrant family still manages a happy ending. According to the New York Times, however, such characters typify the new Irish identity, and not everyone in Ireland is thrilled about it.
In the last decade, Ireland has seen an explosion in immigration equal to that experienced in Britain over the last 50 years, and from over 150 different nations. For over a century before that, Ireland was better known for its emigration rate, which may be partly why no thoughtful immigration laws were ever put in place. And although FP put the country on a list of the world's most immigrant-friendly countries, some on the Emerald Isle fear a threat to Irish culture and history.
Recently, Enda Kenny, leader of the Irish parliamentary party Fine Gael, released a statement calling for a "genuine national debate" on immigration and for immigrants to acknowledge that they have both rights and responsibilities -- not least of which to realize that Ireland is a "Christian celtic" state. He has since been forced to defend those comments, which were characterized by commentators as highly xenophobic. While the debate has not yet reached the levels of rancor found in other European countries, Ireland is clearly reaching a threshold, and films like Once may have very different endings in this uncertain Irish future.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.