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Polish-Irish Encounters in the Old and New Europe

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Edited By Sabine Egger and John McDonagh

The cultural, political, social and economic interaction between Ireland and Poland has a long and complex history. This volume hopes to contribute to an emerging debate around the issues concerned by looking at alternative frameworks for understanding the relationship between the two countries. While the topic has attracted growing interest among researchers from various disciplines in recent years, this is the first book dedicated to exploring this cultural relationship in the context of Polish migration to Ireland. The essays in this collection tease out significant strands that connect the two countries, including literature, visual media, education, politics and history. Examining Polish-Irish relations in their wider historical and cultural context allows for new definitions of Irish, Polish and European identities in the New Europe. Especially important in view of the challenges and opportunities that a multicultural Ireland faces after the hard landing of the Celtic Tiger, this book provides new perspectives on a substantial and vibrant cross-cultural relationship.

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Introduction ix

Extract

Introduction The contributions to this volume are based on selected papers presented at an interdisciplinary conference, Polish–Irish Encounters in the New and Old Europe, held at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, in October 2008.1 At the time the conference was held, migration to Ireland had reached its peak. After a long history of emigration, Ireland’s economic boom during the previous two decades had suddenly transformed it into a country of immigration. For the first time in its modern history, it had been experiencing a significant inf low of migrants. According to the 2006 census, most of these were Polish migrant workers, as well as a smaller number of workers from other Central and Eastern European countries. Following EU-enlargement in 2004 and the increasing demands of the Irish construction sector, Ireland had been allowing almost unfettered access to its labour markets to citizens from the new member states. However, neither this nor Ireland’s attraction as a linguistic base for the acquisi- tion of English language skills had been the only reasons why young Poles chose Ireland as a preferred work and living destination – an attraction ironically referred to in the ballad ‘Kocham cię jak Irlandięy’ (‘I love you like Ireland’) by the Polish punk-rock band Kobranocka. There were also some links between Poland and Ireland which gave the latter the allure of being closer to home than other European destinations: both are Catholic countries in which religion is closely linked with national identity; both had a history of...

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