The Irish are very welcoming, but not very open to diversity
2019-08-01 13:51:30 -
The Integration Question with Princess Pamela Toyin

Sandra Ruiz Moriana came to Ireland from Italy, by way of Spain, in 2009 — bubbly, bright and full of hope. She loved Ireland and wanted to settle here. Armed with Bachelor’s degrees in educational psychology and primary teaching, and a diploma in sign language interpreting, she continued her education here with a further diploma in addiction studies, and felt positive she had a good foundation for life in Ireland. But things didn’t turn out as she had planned. 

“I came to this country with experience and education and I have been through colleges, but finding work in Ireland is very difficult, especially if you’re not in the tech sector,” she laments. 

Sandra volunteered with various organisations in the hopes of gaining more local experience, and in between has passed through the best of universities in Ireland (she also has a Master’s in Women, Gender and Society from UCD). 
She believes her education should give her a chance, but she just can’t catch a break here. She believes there may be an Irish work culture barrier, adding that she thinks employers should be more willing to consider hiring immigrants. 

At one point, Sandra says she was advised to switch careers and return to college to study technology, which is currently in high demand in the job market. 

“Ireland is a good place to live if you work in tech sector, you can have a good life better choice and promotion in career, but I don’t want to work in the tech sector, that’s not why I came here. I want to keep fighting for my dream.” 

Outside the gleaming ‘Silicon Docks’, Sandra believes, it is difficult to build a future in Ireland. 
“It’s been a very challenging experience,” she says of her efforts, not only in volunteering but also internships and a Community Employment scheme, just to try to get a foot in the door.
“On a personal level I’ve been integrating well; the problem is work wise. The Irish are very welcoming, but not open to diversity.” 

These challenges have ignited a new interest for Sandra. After she attended a meeting that empowered women and migrants to get involved in politics, she decided to run for councillor in Tallaght, where she lives. As she believed nobody was representing her voice as a migrant woman, this became intrinsic to her campaign: “Because I was aware of the lack of representation, I was hoping that something will change, and we can say yes, this is the place for us.”

Though she had little support and a meagre campaign budget (less than €3,000), Sandra was happy with the outcome and the response she received locally in one of Ireland’s more diverse communities. “I was very close to being elected … The people were very welcoming and for the first time I felt I was part of this land, but unfortunately that only lasted for four months.” 

Sandra’s true passion lies with education and social justice, a sector that doesn’t appear to be of high demand, and so her dream of making something meaningful of her life in Ireland is beginning to fade. 
“I don’t have the same dream and belief anymore. I’m hopeless now, and don’t have the energy any more,” she says. When out of work, she depends on her husband and that is devastating for her. She breaks down crying every time she has to ask for money to survive. As a result of this, Sandra thinks she may be saying a tearful goodbye to Ireland soon.

She wants to keep trying, especially for her family, a true mix of cultures: she being Italian, her husband French and her two children, aged 3 and 6, very much Irish. “All the work I’ve been doing in the past 10 years can’t just go down the drain like that.”

Yet, she is constantly ground down “to be in a country where you don’t belong. If my future means I have to live on my husband and give up my career, then Ireland is not the place for us. Instead, I prefer to move to another city or go to my home and stay close to my family. It’s not only about just me now; we are a family, a team.”

Before it comes to that, however, Sandra is active in the ‘No to brain waste’ campaign initiated by Dr Ebun Joseph of University College Dublin, who believes the Irish system forces out those who don’t fit a very narrow set of requirements. “The campaign will address institutional racism and many more issues migrants are facing,” she says.
Sandra and others are calling on migrants to join hands with them in driving this campaign forward.

- Princess Pamela Toyin has gained experience since the mid 1980s working in various fields and interacting with people of different tribes and ethnicity. With her passion for diversity, she is propelled to report a diverse range of issues that facilitate intercultural dialogue and integration, which can change social, economic, and cultural stereotypes, and believes there are lessons to be learned from everyone. Talk to her on +353 (0) 87 417 9640 or email
TAGS : Irish diversity spirit
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