Friday, October 12, 2007

Everyone loves the Irish

National Review's Mark Steyn, in an apparently approving reference to the fact that the Republic of Ireland is having the beginnings of a debate about integration of immigrants, which he contrasts with Britain --

John [O'Sullivan], you're right that the Steyn-Heinsohn theses on Europe's demographic weakness are not part of the debate in Britain, in part because its politico-media culture is much more centralized and so, if something doesn't seem important in a select few London postal districts, it doesn't get much play ... On the other hand, I was on a TV show last week in Dublin discussing immigrant integration. Ireland has evolved from a famous exporter of people to a voracious importer thereof: the auld sod's immigrant community has gone from nothing (save for a few English, Scots and tax-avoiding "artists") to ten per cent of the population in little more than a decade. The "Integration Minister", who was on the show, says he's confident Ireland can avoid the mistakes of Britain and the Continent, but everyone says that when in they're in the first flush of immigration romance.

Here's the segment from Prime Time. There were various interesting remarks. Steyn contrasted the inability of Irish emigrants to late 19th/early 20th century America to live in an exclusively immigrant culture compared to the opportunities offered by satellite television, the Internet, and neighbourhood clustering today where Muslim immigrants are concerned. Yet (at the risk of repeating an old point), the big northeastern cities did have heavily Irish communities for a long time, and there were also more return visits than people think. One example being Eamon DeValera, who doesn't seem to have come back from his time in America with much other than American citizenship, which of course played a crucial role in his subsequent history in Ireland.

But anyway, Steyn is right to point to Conor Lenihan's naivete. At one point Lenihan seemed to be claiming that Ireland wouldn't have any problems with integrating immigrants because it wasn't a colonising country, a bizarre theory that for one thing has trouble explaining why it's the 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants to Britain that are more alienated than their parents and grandparents who had the actual experience of colonial rule. In addition, Ireland has a dodgy cocktail of low quality housing, poorly-serviced suburbs, and a hybrid church-state education system, adding up to the classic recipe for social exclusion. Prime Time should bring back the same panel after a couple of years of slower growth to see how well things look then.

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