The public debate on Wednesday hosted over a dozen community and interest groups across Ireland, including the Irish Hijab Campaign, which Shekinah’s parents helped set up.
Ahead of the conference, Conor Lenihan, the integration minister, said: “I believe that civic participation and dialogue are key aspects of successful integration which is a challenge shared by both the host community and the new communities of Ireland.”
Dilution of culture
The results of a poll on public attitudes to integration were also presented at the forum, which took place at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.
According to Gerard O’Neill, from Ámarach Research, an Irish market research agency, the results indicate that Irish people are, on balance, “very positive” about Ireland’s experience of immigration over the past ten years which saw net inward migration of 457,000 people.
“The process of integration is still at an early stage, however, and concerns remain about the impact of immigration on health and educational services,” a statement released by the company said.
Among those surveyed, 54 per cent felt immigration had been good for Ireland, while 33 per cent felt the impact had been bad for Ireland for reasons including competition for jobs, dilution of Irish culture, and demands on state benefits.
Asked about consequences for people’s attitudes towards immigrants in light of “the uncertain economic outlook”, 66 per cent felt immigration policy should be made more restrictive, 27 per cent felt it should remain the same and seven per cent suggest it should be less restrictive.
The poll was conducted last week among a sample of 1,000 adults in the Irish Republic.