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Ireland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

There are no officially recognised cultural minority groups in Ireland. Just 0.6% of the Irish population (2011 census), the Travelling community has campaigned for official recognition on the basis that they fit the description of a unique ethnic group, sharing, as they do, distinctive cultural traditions. A 2014 report on Recognition of Traveller Ethnicity has recommended action. In the past the EU Fundamental Rights Agency has placed Ireland in the top 10 of EU States with the highest level of discrimination in everyday life. The recession years have seen significant cuts and a withdrawal of support for traveller education.

The Travelling community are identified (both by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions including, historically, a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland. The Irish Traveller Movement has been campaigning for Traveller rights since 1990.  As part of the Bealtaine Festival in 2012, there was a celebration of the contribution made by older Travellers to the Travelling community and wider society.

Since 2000 Ireland had one of the highest net migration rates of the EU-15. The share of foreign born people living in Ireland rose from 6% in 1991 to over 17% of the population in 2011. The top countries of origin for immigrants were the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Latvia, with a notable increase in Romanian born immigrants. The Immigration and Residence Bill 2008 was published to a not uncritical reception from immigrant representative bodies. In general some progress has been made in moving Ireland towards an intercultural society with various strategies to this end in health, tourism, housing, policing and the marketplace. Opinion polls towards diversity are very positive but public opinion towards asylum seekers and travellers is less favourable. The United Nations has noted the government failure to establish clear immigration rules as well as the impact of steep funding cuts to the funding of state bodies protecting human rights. The Immigrant Council of Ireland works to improve the lives of migrants and their families in Ireland.  Following on its policy for cultural diversity, the Arts Council appointed a Cultural Diversity Advisor in 2012 and invited applications from local authorities in this field. The Department of Education and Skills' Intercultural Education Strategy 2010-2015 sets out a range of provisions in this area. At local level a number of local authorities have produced anti-racism and diversity plans while Longford County Council, for example, has published an Intercultural Strategic Plan. As in the case in all other areas of Irish life, provision for immigrant integration has been affected by budgetary cutbacks: notably, a significant reduction in the number of language teachers at primary and post-primary level.

Chapter published: 10-06-2015

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