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Professor analyzes economics

Nicholas Bock | Monday, October 15, 2007

Luke Gibbons, the Donald R. Keough Professor of Irish Studies said Ireland’s rate of immigration in the 20th century was tied to the perception of a “Celtic Twilight” – a stagnant Irish economy.

He alluded to two theories explaining this claim before a crowded auditorium at the Snite Museum Saturday night.

“Some scholars claim that the social climate in Ireland is due to the blasé assumption that the Irish cannot be racist,” Gibbons said.

He summarized their argument by asking, “How can [the Irish] be racist? We are the original immigrants.”

Other scholars believe that racism in Ireland is fervent. Gibbons argued that the social reality falls somewhere between the two theories. “Celtic Tiger,” “Twilight’s” counterpart, is Ireland’s current economic status, characterized by a significant economic upsurge.

In the early 1990s, unemployment was at a steady 17 percent in Ireland; but by 1999, it had dropped to four percent, Gibbons said. He attributed increased migration to Ireland correlated with this drop in unemployment.

“The influx of foreign nationals strengthened employment rates and overall productivity of the Irish economy,” he said. Currently, these “foreign nationals” make up 14 percent of the Irish population and have registered more than 200 languages in Ireland.

“Irishmen have responded to this increase of social migration and lower unemployment levels by claiming a high moral ground with regards to racism,” Gibbons said.

He stated the Irish have a desire to “reject their previous image of a third world country. … People don’t like to be reminded of their [previous] destitution and poverty.”

Gibbons concluded by stressing the importance of remembering the past – what he dubbed an “ethics of memory.”

“To die is one thing, but to be forgotten is to die again.”

Gibbons said the Irish studies department at Notre Dame helps students to “construct a deep bedrock of Irish history.” This bedrock, he hopes, will give us a “preview of future multiethnic Ireland.”

Sophomore Chris Schaal was impressed by Gibbons’ “distinctly Irish humor.”

“The lecture helped me realize how much immigration is still going on today.”

This was the third lecture in the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies conference. The conference continues until Wednesday.