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ESOL Provision in the UK and Ireland: Challenges and Opportunities


Edited By Freda Mishan

Situated within the context of unprecedented levels of inward migration to the UK and Ireland bringing with it all the complexities of integration, this volume focuses on a key aspect of this - language provision. Through the voices of stakeholders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), this volume critically examines models of language provision and integration, the relationship between language and identity, developing ESOL practices and ESOL policy. A distinctive feature is the diversity of contributions, ranging from research studies to vignettes presenting living portraits of ESOL practice on the ground. The volume fills an urgent gap in this area, offering a snapshot of the ‘state of the art’ of ESOL in the UK and Ireland and projections of how the needs of new migrants can be addressed into the future.

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1 The construction of an independent Irish identity (Kevin McCarthy)


Kevin McCarthy

1 The construction of an independent Irish identity


This chapter seeks to characterise contemporary Irish identity by contextualising it within its historical evolution, as being unique in Europe as a result of its colonial past and its – until recently – overwhelmingly Catholic and universally Christian demographic. This distinct identity is used to explain contemporary Irish attitudes to refugees and asylum seekers, which a 2018 ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) report revealed to have stronger ‘inherent prejudice’ against certain immigrant communities than their European counterparts. The chapter illustrates how Ireland’s modern identity as an economically prosperous and open society (permissive of divorce, gay marriage and abortion) is in stark contrast to its economic and societal situation at time of gaining independence a century ago. Pre-independence Ireland’s economic development had been constricted by centuries of colonialism leaving the country with a standard of living far below European norms, with an almost universally white Christian demographic as noted above, and, most relevant to the current chapter, minimal inward migration. When immigration did finally commence in earnest in the late 1990s, the newcomers were predominantly white and Catholic/Christian and from new EU member states such as Poland. Consequently, as the current refugee crisis evolved, the bureaucratic backbone underpinning governmental policy towards those of ‘difference’, as well as a wider societal understanding of the devastating forces driving refugee and/or asylum seekers, was essentially non-existent. This unfamiliarity was reinforced in some cohorts by a race-memory of generations...

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