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Ireland and immigration: explaining the absence of the far right

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Garner seeks to explain the absence of far-right political formations in the history of the Republic of Ireland, especially in relation to immigration. He argues that the 'mainstream' nationalist parties have implemented a racialized governance of Ireland via the issue of citizenship (in the referendum of 2004). While hegemonic ideas on the racial purity of indigenous populations and the highly ambivalent attitudes and policies on immigration pursued over the last decade are characteristic of a broader European trend, this has not, in the Republic, been accompanied by meaningful far-right political mobilization. Ireland has frequently been seen as sui generis in political terms, and indeed emerges in some ways as a counter-case: increasing hostility towards Others has been identified in the midst of rapid economic growth and political stability. A variety of issues related to the country's political development have given rise to an especially small left-wing vote, a nationalist centre ground and longlasting domination by a single populist party, Fianna Fáil. This party has been partnered in government since 1997 by a free-market party, the Progressive Democrats, who have contributed to Ireland's movement towards neo-liberal policies and a highly functional approach to immigration. The transition from country of emigration to country of immigration has thus taken place against an ideological backdrop in which the imperatives of labour demand and consolidating domestic support for reform have made an uneasy match, resulting in the racialization of Irishness. The state has, however, amended the Constitution in order to qualify jus soli citizenship entitlement in the case of particular categories of people: those whose parents are not Irish nationals. The significant stakes of these changes are analysed in the context of state responses to Eire's transition to a country of immigration, and the role of nationalist-populism in the country's political culture.

Keywords: Ireland; citizenship; far right; immigration; politics; racialization; racism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2007

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