€6 million Immigration Initiative Commences at TCD

Posted on: 23 January 2007

Ireland’s Largest Immigration Research Programme launched byTrinity College

Is Ireland’s immigration creating a transient workforce and, if so, what are the implications for future planning in areas such as pensions provision and training? How is the proliferation of ‘new religions’ such as African-led churches influencing religion in Ireland? How will our education system respond to the 165 languages (other than Irish and English) which are currently spoken by the immigrant community in Ireland? Can Ireland avoid the tensions between immigrants and local populations that have sometimes arisen in other countries?

These are just some of the questions that will be addressed by Ireland’s largest immigration research programme, launched in Trinity College Dublin on 22 January.

The first phase of the Trinity Immigration Initiative (TII), a four year project addressing the key challenges of immigration in Ireland and helping Irish society develop policies in relation to these issues, will cost €6 million. Data generated by the Initiative will be made publicly available on a regular basis in quarterly reports and by other means throughout the four year project.

The multidisciplinary research programme will focus on the areas of employment, social policy, culture and language and will provide a detailed picture of immigrants living in Ireland. It will chart their career aspirations, integration into Irish communities, educational needs as well as their cultural and religious activities.

Other questions to be answered include: Why are immigrants earning a third less per hour than the native Irish population? Why does colloquial consideration of immigrants overlook those from the UK (the second largest migrant group in 2006), Germany and France? Do immigrants improve their skills and qualifications in Ireland for later employment in their native countries? How many of them become successful entrepreneurs?

Commenting on the significance of the Trinity Immigration Initiative, Professor James Wickham of TCD’s Department of Sociology said: “The country has a narrow window of opportunity to plan for and maximise the benefits of the economic, social and cultural contribution of immigrants to Irish society, and to minimise the risks.

“There is currently a paucity of information on immigration in Ireland and one of the key issues for this research is generating quality data and making it public fast as the situation is evolving rapidly.

“The information generated by the research programme will be invaluable to national and local policy in areas such as employment, education and community affairs. It will also be relevant to social partners, the private sector and the voluntary sectors among others.

“Choices and decisions concerning immigration that are currently being made at institutional and community levels will have a major impact on Irish society for this and future generations. Sound evidence of the actual and potential impact of immigration at every level is required now as a basis for achieving coherent policy and creating a cohesive society for the future. Trinity Immigration Initiative aims to provide essential up-to-date data for the formulation of such important policies.”

The Trinity Immigration Initiative will:
 carry out a national social survey on the level of integration of the new immigrant population with Ireland’s indigenous population;
 chart migrant careers and aspirations;
 provide a practical and cost- effective language immersion programme for immigrant students at post-primary level;
 analyse government funded programmes in health, education, housing, social welfare in facing the challenges of immigration;
 contribute to improved community relations among immigrants and indigenous population through an Inner City District Case Study in Dublin;
 facilitate the integration of immigrants through a study of migrant network activities such as their cultural and religious expression.

The first phase of the Initiative will cost €6 million to complete. Initial funding has been received from AIB. Additional funding to complete this phase will be sought from relevant public and private sources.

Guest speakers at the Trinity Immigration Initiative which was launched by TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty, were ICTU General Secretary, David Begg, IBEC Director General, Turlough O’Sullivan, editor of the multi-cultural publication, Metro Éireann, Chinedu Onyejelem and AIB Group Chief Executive, Eugene Sheehy.

The Trinity Immigration Initiative has been developed by the following TCD staff:
 Professor Robbie Gilligan, School of Social Work and Social Policy
 Ms Sharon Jackson, Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS)
 Dr Ronit Lentin, Ethnic and Racial Studies, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy
 Professor David Little, Centre for Language and Communication Studies (CLCS), School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences
 Dr Peter Mühlau, Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy
 Professor James Wickham, Department of Sociology / Employment Research Centre (ERC), School of Social Sciences and Philosophy

Provost john hegarty, ibec director general, turlough o'sullivan and olabomi ogundeji

Provost John Hegarty, IBEC Director General, Turlough O’Sullivan and Olabomi Ogundeji, Discovery Choir