A new survey seeks to gather the views of members of the Church of Ireland on ethnic diversity, inclusion and racial justice. The initiative of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, follows discussions with members and clergy and those serving in lay ministry from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds on the progress made within the Church on drawing on our rich diversity.
At the Church of Ireland’s most recent General Synod in September 2021, the Archbishop said: “It was a little troubling to hear about how we had not drawn anything like deeply enough on the rich diversity of backgrounds in our Church. The meeting had also helped me to understand how difficult it can be to be a person of colour on this island and even, at times, in our Church.”
The research now being carried out has been designed in collaboration with the group of ethnically diverse clergy and lay readers who have now met on a further occasion, and will, along with other strands, examine and make recommendations on how the Church of Ireland can become truly a place of welcome for those from every ethnic background, both lay and clergy.
Our team has worked with the Archbishop and working group since last year, considering the range of initiatives in this area undertaken previously and examining how to move forward on an all-island basis with the support of the wider Church membership. The Archbishop hopes to publish the results of the report and recommendations at the upcoming General Synod 2022.
Recently, we commented on the latest IPSOS Global Trends 2021 study, in which researchers posed the folowing statement to members of the Irish public “There are too many immigrants in my country”. Such statements in research surveys are a common way of establishing attitudes amongst the wider public towards migrants. There are, however, some implications of these questions which have to be considered in their interpretation.
Firstly, it is helpful to point out that the statements themselves can be reproduced quite problematically in the media on the publication of such survey results. I found Sorcha Pollak’s approach very welcome in her discussion of these results and I’m grateful for her efforts to interrogate them.
Who is ‘an immigrant’? As Dr Amanullah DeSondy points out to Sorcha Pollak in this Irish Times article, participants often jump straight to thinking about “a black or brown person” when they think of migrants. So is it problematic that the survey does not ask a person to think of ‘all’ migrants? Given that we commonly have an idea of who is being talked about as ‘immigrants’ in political discourse, or in the chat in the parents group on WhatsApp or down the local pub, it is sensible that the survey seeks to capture exactly that sentiment in the research itself. The presentation of the results, however, leaves something to be desired if it does not address that point. Immigrants from the USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand are rarely complained about in the way that migrants from other countries are.
Far-right political groups (and often some mainstream groups using racism to get elected) point to the supposed drain on public services such as education, health or housing that immigrants produce. The framing of this is key – immigrants ‘drain’, while citizens ‘use’. Public services which are under pressure for other reasons (e.g. a housing crisis) are often the targets of anti-immigrant sentiment. That was evident in emergence of housing protests in Mulhuddart recently, despite County Council assurances that there was no ‘queue-jumping’ by migrants on the housing list. ‘Houses for the Irish’ has been an increasingly heard sentiment here during the housing crisis, as ‘Jobs for the Irish’ was popular during the recession post-2009. The framing of these issues in anti-immigrant sentiment is not only by far-right groups. The motivation for the Citizenship referendum of 2004 came directly from Government, not from the public. During the recession, Government made calls on immigrants to ‘go home’, ignoring that many had made Ireland their home in previous decades with all the intimate connections and long-term investments that this entails.
Attempts in anti-racism campaigns (particularly ‘myth-busting’) to point to the contributions made by migrants to a society have mixed efficacy, since myths about immigration are often adopted as beliefs along with emotional resonance with the issue.
Extreme views on immigration have tended to be relatively consistently captured in public attitude surveys. It is rare in the last decade to see extreme views at more than 10% of any survey on immigration (usually tipping about 6-7% in Europe). These appear to be relatively unaffected by fluctuations in the middle ground.
But there are key moments when public sentiment changes significantly in the middle ground, and surveys can capture that. We noted for example that in the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey results after the 2016 Brexit vote, sentiment towards migrants was much more positive, even in the context of public services under pressure. This followed widespread discussion of the need for migrants in the workforce in media across the range of political viewpoints. Sentiments can also be changed by conditions outside a country’s own policies – in Ireland, for example, half of tabloids sold daily are UK-owned and contain high levels of anti-immigrant sentiment. American-influenced anti-immigrant sentiment is increasingly evident in Irish online forums since 2016, when Trump was elected in the USA.
Another statement put to participants in the IPSOS Global Trends survey which is useful is “people from different backgrounds and ethnic minorities in my country are treated fairly”. This statement, in its broad assertion, captures a range of experiences, which might include hate speech or racist incidents, but also state racisms, which are rarely captured elsewhere. Just 46 per cent of Irish people agreed with the statement this year.
Frequently, the public is ahead of Government on positive sentiment towards immigrants. We have seen that repeatedly in Ireland in recent years, as public campaigns for increased refugee reception and improved conditions for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants have proved popular and effective. The 81 per cent of Irish people who agreed that “my local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together” (compared with just 65 per cent in Germany) reflects other research we have conducted recently that shows white Irish and ethnic minorities mix well in local communities, despite a historically laissez-faire approach by Government to integration.
Crude as they may be, Government look to surveys like the IPSOS Global Trends survey for consistent feedback on their position regarding immigration. Interrogating the utility of the questions posed, and how the results can be interpreted, is a crucial part of informing Goverment or civil society action that might follow.
HUGE THANKS to everyone who worked with us in 2021.
It’s been an incredibly busy year for us, and a very satisfying one! We added two full-time staff this year, and have employed a further 9 project staff. And we hope to continue to further our work on equity, inclusion and justice in 2022 with an expanded team!
Our clients this year in Ireland, the UK and Europe included:
International Organisation for Migration
Higher Education Authority
Department of Education
Trinity College Dublin
Irish Network Against Racism
Coalition of Disabled People’s Organisations
Irish Deaf Society
Irish Council of Civil Liberties and Irish Refugee Council
The Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education, DCU Institute of Education, is delighted to invite you to the fourth annual ‘Brian Ruane Lecture on Human Rights and Human Rights Education’ to be held on Thursday, 9th December, 2021 at 6pm. This year’s lecture, Policy windows or open doors? How does anti-racism get into education?, will be given by Dr Lucy Michael.
While education is often espoused as a solution to racism, efforts to create anti-racist education systems often meet with great resistance. Racism is reflected in and reinforced by our education system in a wide variety of ways, and only an explicit effort to address systemic discrimination will reduce the complicity of our education system in its reproduction.
Drawing on the experiences of students and teachers in Ireland of trying to address racism, Dr Michael explores the extent to which the Irish education system appears open to those explicit efforts towards change. How well are the systemic effects of racism understood, and addressed, in state and activist responses to racism in education? And why are we seeing such slow progress in key areas, despite the availability of international good practice to follow?
Time: Thursday, December 9th, 6pm – 7pm Location: The event will take place this year online
Published 18 October 2021 by the Higher Education Authority (HEA)
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) today published its new report Race Equality in the Higher
Education Sector, authored by Dr Marta Kempny and Dr
Lucy Michael. This report captures, for the first time, quantitative and
qualitative data on the race and ethnicity of higher education staff as well as
their experiences at work.
The report is based on a survey taken by over 3000 staff in
higher education institutions across Ireland during December and January. The
aim of the survey was to capture the lived experience of HEI staff in relation
to race equality. Participants described their experiences of reporting abuse,
stereotyping, and at times, the lack of recognition for their work.
Key findings include:
More than one-third (35%) of minority ethnic third-level
education staff say they have been subjected to racial or ethnic discrimination
Less than half of minority ethnic staff are on full-time
contracts, compared to 38% of white Irish and 25% white other not on full time
Just over 17% of minority ethnic staff earn over €75,000, compared to 38% of white Irish and 25%
of white other
71% said they feel they are treated equally by their colleagues, irrespective
of their background
69% said they are treated equally by students, irrespective
of their background
Few white staff have reported experiencing racial or ethnic
discrimination, but all groups reported witnessing racial or ethnic
discrimination against minority ethnic staff
half of respondents (52%) said they had never seen or heard the use of racist
language on campus or online, while 27% said they rarely have seen such
instances. However, staff across all ethnic groups described witnessing racial
or ethnic discrimination against ethnic minority staff.
Recommendations are made in 8 key areas:
Supporting Diversity in Staffing
Making Race/Equality Policies Transparent
Awareness and Training
Fostering Diversity in HEIs
Supporting Diversity in Student Recruitment
The findings are potentially significant
for colleges on a financial basis, given that future research funding for
colleges will be influenced by progress on equality. In particular it will help us to
understand and address the institutional policies, processes and practices
which embed and reproduce inequalities between staff of different backgrounds.
In this way the HEA report is also an important educational
resource in highlighting the fact that racism is not just about overtly racist
actions, such as racial harassment and hate crime, which unfortunately are
still a problem in our society.
Dr Ross Woods, the Senior Manager of the HEA Centre of Excellence
for Equality, Diversity and inclusion, said: “Now that we have an evidence
base, the HEA can work with institutions to prevent rather than react to
problems in this area and to keep pace with wider demographic changes in Irish
The report also featured on the front pages of the Irish
Times, Irish Independent and Examiner. If you’ve missed the publications around
the HEA Report and the responses to it, you can find some of the major
We will be delivering a free 3 hour introduction to recruiting diversity of talent, handling qualifications & work permits, addressing equality issues and benefitting from diversity in your team. Group size is limited to 15, to ensure a truly interactive training focused on your learning needs.
“Thank you; this was incredibly helpful. I really liked that it was so orientated towards things we can do as institutions, as individuals who have a part in shaping the institutions, and as individuals inside institutions.”
What will you learn? Here’s what one participant told us were his takeaways:
1. Speed creates bias – Given also that unfamiliarity leads to high anxiety, has your hiring for diversity been well thought through, with robust process and criteria, and definitely not rushed?
2. Systems must help – Both organisational recognition and local mapping of foreign qualifications, and knowledge of work permits are critical. Is your application system currently providing sufficient opportunity for additional narrative, also around experience?
3. End-to-end inclusion encouragement – From the job spec through to the interview form and beyond, is your hiring process encouraging an inclusive approach throughout?
Final thought. When workplace teams reflect their target customers, the entire team is twice as likely to innovate. Fact.
We look forward to meeting you in our next training!
If you’ve missed the series of publications written for the ARK Research Centre of Queens University Belfast and Ulster University, you can review the most recent reports on attitudes to ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees here.
It’s crucial that employers understand and are equipped to address bias in the software used for recruitment and human resource management.
In this new toolkit, we explore the role of human bias and structural discrimination in discriminatory or unethical AI programmes, and provide clear and practical steps to ensure companies have the necessary cultural and technological tools to responsibly digitalise HR systems with the help of intelligent systems.
All welcome to our launch, where we’ll address why it’s essential we tackle algorithmic bias, and how.
We are delighted to have Dr Marta Kempny working with us on a new project on race equality in higher education this month. Dr Kempny, an anthropologist from Poland and Northern Ireland, previously worked with us on the UN CERD Civil Society Report in 2019, and on refugee integration research, and we are excited to have her collaboration on this new project.
I first met Marta when Bryan Fanning and I were preparing the book Immigrants as Outsiders in the Two Irelands. We invited Marta, an expert on the experience of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland, to contribute her research to the book. Her insightful chapter, Polish spaces in a divided city, drew on ethnographic research to examine changing spatial knowledge, mobility and community resources amongst this migrant group over a decade in Belfast. Her 2010 book, Polish Migrants in Belfast: Border Crossing and Identity Construction, is well worth reading.
Her latest research, Migrant Lives, Presents and Futures, which aimed to raise awareness about migrant lives in Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of insecurities around Brexit and the pandemic, was recently featured on a podcast. Listen here.