Wednesday, September 10, 2008

EU report finds that Irish people have less perception or experience of discrimination than the EU average

After Ireland's glorious 0:0 draw against the footballing might of Montenegro, another reason for Irish people to feel proud: A European Union survey shows that we are a tolerant people.

The EU report says that:

"In Ireland, all forms of discrimination are perceived as being widespread by a lower proportion than in the EU. This gap is at its highest for discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, but is generally a wide one for all types of discrimination under consideration. Discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin is the only type thought to be widespread by more than a half of Irish respondents."

The EU report shows that Ireland scores high on toleration for ethnic diversity, toleration for different sexual orientations, and toleration for religious diversity. It says nothing about toleration for alcohol, where I'd hope we'd score highly too (sorry, I could not resist).

Compared to the European average, Irish people were more likely to be happy to live next door to someone of a different ethnicity, religion, or someone who is homosexual.

The report shows that Irish people were less likely, compared to the EU average, to know someone who is homosexual or of a different ethnicity. I am reminded of my time growing up in rural Ireland, when it was hard to tell if racism was an issue, because there simply were no non-white people around. Most people, when asked, would have said "I have no problem with someone of a different ethnicity as a neighbour", but in reality there was very little chance of that happening. It would be like saying "I have no problem with a Martian as a neighbour". But, Ireland has changed a lot since then. As Gerald O'Neill notes:

I think by far the most powerful measure of our tolerance is the way in which we have responded to the extraordinary speed and scale of immigration to our country over the past 10 years or so. As noted in new research by my own company, the majority of Irish people consider immigration to have been a good thing on balance for Ireland. Almost no other country has experienced such a surge in the share of foreign nationals in its total population (to 10% in just 10 years) with so little real social, economic or political strife as Ireland. There is no greater testimony to our tolerance as a people in my opinion.

This is good for the Irish economy too, since it means Ireland is a good place for people to move to, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. This is what benefits certain US cities in "new economy" areas such as technology and media.

The full report is here:

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