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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