inner conflict

Four Courts-Dublin 8 
walking to Stoneybatter

rowing team going west along the Liffey

Hubs and I are trying to be positive about our chances here in Dublin. As you can see, Dublin is a beautiful city. All we want to do is stay here and make a life for ourselves. Still, I need to find work in order to legally stay or be given permission by the State to stay on my own finances until I find work (more on this soon!). Surely I am thinking of the tuition money we've already paid for hubby's first year in college but I am also thinking of the experiences that I already cherish about being in a new country with new friends and an interesting history.

The fact is, I need to find a job. Not only is the lack of vacant jobs a factor, but I am beginning to wonder if I am being rejected because I am not an Irish citizen. I have been told outright that companies are unwilling to hire me, even though I am legally permitted to work. Today I was rejected for the War Child Ireland position. With each new rejection letter in the mail, I wonder if there is something beyond economic recession that comes into play.

What exactly am I trying to say? There is a deep-seated vein of nationalism running through this country. The more conversations I have, the more I realize that most Irish people share it to varying degrees. There are a few things that factor into this nationalism, not the least of which is a history of centuries of exploitation and division of Ireland's resources by outsiders.

Ever since arriving in Ireland, I have detected this undercurrent of nationalism. There is a distinct attitude of 'Ireland for the Irish' at the forefront of any discussion about the economy, especially when it comes to jobs. There was talk in the news that the bailout of the Irish economy should be rejected because it would mean admitting Irish dependence on outsiders. Terms like 'national disgrace' are tossed around--not because of the fiscal irresponsibility that got the Celtic Tiger in this mess but because 'Michael Collins didn't fight for Irish independence just so Ireland could depend on the EU for money'.

These ideas are not the radical thoughts of one side of the political spectrum either. When I mention that I am looking for work, the reaction is sometimes ambiguous--as if the person might not want to encourage me to find a job. After all, wouldn't I be taking a job away from an Irish person? (This is, of course, where the work permit comes into the equation. Any company that wants to hire me will have to sign a document stating that I am more qualified than the Irish applicants for the position. In this case, how would I know if they hire an Irish citizen who is less-qualified than I am? Would that be considered discrimination or just a valid option in that situation? I dont know.)

The next layer of 'Ireland for the Irish' is the discriminatory attitude towards EU citizens who can also legally get jobs in Ireland. The largest population of non-Irish EU citizens in the country are the Polish. There are so many that the local Tesco has a Polish-food aisle and it is not abnormal to pass by a Polski Sklep or the red and white bedecked Polish shops and butcher counters as you walk around the city centre. Although many Polish citizens are in the country legally and permitted to work, some Irish believe they are stealing jobs from citizens and undermining the traditional way of life. I also hear the other side of the argument--that the Poles do work no Irish citizen would agree to, they work jobs with hours that no Irish citizen would work, and that Polish people are a driven population who work harder than the average Irish person in the same position.  It seems obvious to me that the feeling towards the Poles here in Ireland is very similar to the feelings towards Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Ireland has a distinct identity and it is impossible to extract that bit of Irish-ness without taking into account the tragic history of the Irish over the years. This attitude is present in the population and I dont explain it to claim that my lack of job is the fault of nationalism. I explain it because it is something uniquely Irish. Being familiar with discrimination in the US, there is something different about this attitude. It is an instinct for self-preservation for a people who have a history of being taken advantage of. It is a reluctance to trust outsiders. It is not racially charged per se; interestingly enough it extends to the descendants of Irish ancestors from other counties.

Have you seen an Irish person react when you tell them you 'are Irish' because you have Irish ancestry? In the mind of the one claiming to be Irish, it's a simple statement of heritage. In the mind of the Irish, it is a poseur. Those who left Ireland for America or Australia when Ireland could no longer support its own population are not welcomed home. Simply put, they did not 'stick around' through the hard times. They gave up on Ireland in a sense and dont deserve to share fully in the culture. These are just a few of the layers of Irish nationalism that I have discovered after only 3 months in the country. I hope I do proper justice to the explanation so if you see an error, please comment and correct me.

Why has all this been on my mind? Knowing some of the history of the Irish State, I certainly understand the sentiment at the root of this attitude. Obviously, I am intrigued and want to learn more. Unfortunately, I feel it may be affecting my job search negatively and there is nothing I can do about it. As the completely qualified and legally permitted immigrant who is trying to get a job in this country, it is hard not to feel slighted.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. ^Charles sent me an awesome spam message about how to get a job working from home by browsing the internet. Thanks a lot Charles!


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