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My partner is a Muslim woman of colour from the UK, and I’m keen to move back to Dublin. She’s up for it, which is great, but I’m worried that I’d be bringing her back to a city which is much, much whiter than London, and might well be more racist or Islamophobic. Further down the line, I’d worry about that too if we have kids, who might be the only brown faces in a classroom (although I guess that’s changing … ) Any perspective on how Ireland would compare to the UK on this?
Oh gosh, this is a tricky one, and quite a personal because part of me would love to move home too. Yet as much as I love and miss Ireland, I am hesitant, primarily because of the bad memories of my own childhood. I have a young child myself, and plan on having more. The idea that they might ever experience even a fraction of what I did, is enough to give me serious pause for thought.
At the same time, I completely understand the draw of home, just being close to family, and the feeling that you want your children to be Irish; to have Irish accents, to understand the humour, to be fully immersed in the culture, to enjoy all the many wonderful aspects of growing up in Ireland. It’s a tough call.
In terms of where we are historically, you are definitely at an advantage. At first take, you might find the trends in the recent census confusing. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of non-Irish nationals in Ireland fell from 544,357 to 535,475.
But that’s partly because of the increase in people who say they have dual Irish nationality, so many now have citizenship. In 2011, there were 48,879 people with dual nationality, and by 2016 that was up to 104,784. (Dublin, as you’d expect, has the largest number of non-Irish nationals, at 91,876.)
Ireland now has a significant minority population, so your partner and future children would hopefully have access to the crucial supportive network that was missing for me when I was growing up. Yet these potential gains are offset by an apparent rise in racism.
However, there are also groups such as the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland that work tirelessly with the aim of eradicating racism in Ireland. When the Germany-based anti-Islam group Pegida staged a demonstration in Dublin in June 2016, they were shut down by anti-racist counter-protesters who ran them off the streets, which suggests the presence of a militant left, who are prepared to contest racist abuses.
It’s great that you are aware of the potential issues. That, in and of itself, is an important start! Preparation provides a vantage point from which you can address any issues as and when they arise, hopefully even circumventing some of them.
I’ve had similar conversations with other white Irish people who have naively imagined that the same Ireland exists for everyone, not realising that their non-white partner and children will probably experience Ireland in a very different way.
While white Irish people often take fitting in for granted, those of us who are not white – no matter how Irish we are – are generally saddled with a lifetime of explaining: not just our presence, but often our very existence. White family members who are oblivious, or in outright denial, only exacerbate what can be an overwhelming sense of alienation.
Experiences are also mediated by appearance. Whether or not your children look white, or closer to white, will sadly, to a large extent dictate how they are treated and perceived, and subsequently I would imagine, will shape their relationship to Ireland.
My advice is research, research, and research. Has your partner spent much time in Dublin? Does she feel comfortable there? Obviously the Muslim communities in Ireland are diverse. You haven’t mentioned the specifics of your partner’s background, but are there any Muslim community groups or networks that she could contact prior to the move?
Have you researched schools? Will you have access to schools with a diverse student body and a commitment to inclusion? Another thing to consider is Irish culture. For somebody who doesn’t drink excessively (if that applies here) socialising can be challenging, so again, having a decent support network is key.
Best of luck with it whatever you decide.
I live across the road from the Mosque. I’m glad to say I’ve seen no trouble of any sort.
The school down the road seems to have every face and creed in the world in it.
Dublin is quite diverse; the writer seems out of touch with modern Dublin. It seems odd that someone based abroad is commenting on issues in Ireland.
Dubai is good. Go there and save for a house for a few years. Come back when the housing crisis has been sorted out.
As for Emma living abroad, most of the culture section of the irish times is about what irish people are doing in london. Your comment seems like a little jibe at Emma to me, and has zero to do with advising this man who wants to come home with his girlfriend. Emma is doing what a lot of dubliners do, moving to london in her twenties. What is your problem with her writing in dublin inquirer and living in london??
While there is a lot of work to be done on racism in Ireland, there appears to be a lower level of Islamophobic violence than in other European countries. That’s a separate issue to being ‘included’, but as the contributor seems to suggest that their partner is Muslim, but they are not, there may be more scope to move in a variety of different social circles. Choosing a supportive school is key for kids if there are any, and that’s a challenge with the schools numbers in Dublin too. Emma gives good advice – contact local groups to find out what it’s like firsthand.
North but South, I’d say that while Dublin is more diverse than ever, it’s not especially so, and certainly less so than the UK. As well as that, diversity doesn’t automatically result in tolerance; it doesn’t magically make everybody sound.
There’s also diverse versus mixed; people’s social groups in Dublin would be a lot less diverse than they would in a city like London, where a few generations of people have gone to school with people of different backgrounds. We’re less far down that road at the minute, but I think it will happen.
Zoe: I don’t have a problem with her living in London as such but person asking the question of what Dublin would be like to move to but the writer doesn’t actually live there. So she doesn’t seem qualified to answer the question.
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