Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants meets with Dublin schools on cross-cultural issues ahead of major conference on migration

19 Nov 2007


19th November 2007

Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants along with international expert meet with Dublin schools on cross-cultural issues ahead of major conference on migration


“Schools are critical to the life chances of immigrant and refugee children” – Professor Des Cahill

Professor Des Cahill, Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne and a world authority on immigrant and cross-cultural issues, addressed a gathering of school principals, chairpersons and priests in the Dublin 15 area this evening on the sensitive issue of the relationship between religion and state in education, stating that: “Schools are critical to the life chances of immigrant and refugee children, including the second-generation group born in Ireland in homes where English is not spoken”.

Visiting Ireland to address a conference hosted by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference at Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Co Meath, Professor Cahill added that: “schools, including their ethos, are always changing to respond to new social challenges. In Australia, the Catholic schools because of their popularity have been multicultural since World War II; now they are increasingly multi-faith in their population, presenting new situations never previously faced and yet to be fully solved.”

Professor Cahill welcomed the opportunity to hear first hand the issues facing those on the front line of changing demographic patterns in this area of Dublin. He added that: “schools in Australia had come to understand the importance of well-funded English-as-a-second language programmes, including English language centres for newly-arriving children. It is wrong for teachers to tell immigrant parents to speak English at home; this often does not work because the English they model is poor, pidginised English.” He commented further, “there are ways and strategies of dealing with these complex issues associated with the bilingualism of children. These include the involvement of universities and teacher training institutions.”

Speaking on the broader theme of migration he said, “As with other similar countries, economic success brings a lower birthrate, a highly skilled workforce, gaps in the national skill base and an aging population.

Professor Cahill added: “A well-managed migration programme represents a wonderful opportunity for Ireland. People are on the move, and the new migration allows Ireland to link more into the global economy and become a truly global nation. With their economic success and their diminishing birth rates, countries like Italy, Spain, Japan, Korea and Singapore as well as Ireland itself are becoming enriched as nations culturally and economically.”

Reflecting on the Australian experience, Professor Cahill said that it was important to have a well-ordered immigration programme. “It is also important for psychological well-being and support to have a programme that was oriented to family reunion, otherwise there will be some dysfunction”. He added that government must take the lead, and that all major political parties need to be in support of the various policies and programmes needed for the healthy settlement of immigrants.

Professor Cahill also spoke of the components of social cohesion in immigrant and diverse societies. “Social cohesion is composed of five elements: belonging; inclusion; participation; recognition; and, the social legitimacy of pluralism.” He suggested that: “there would be cultural ferment and religious accommodation as Ireland became more multicultural and more multifaith. Of course, there are risks and dangers, but managing cultural and religious diversity would have its own rewards in broadening and deepening the Irish identity; otherwise it will stagnate.”


Notes for Editors

  • The meeting was held in Lutterelstown Golf Club, Dublin 15, at 6 pm Monday the 19th of November 2007.
  • Professor Des Cahill is the keynote speaker at a conference on migration hosted by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants entitled “From Pastoral Care to Public Policy – Journeying with the Migrant” which takes place this Wednesday-Friday, 21-23 November 2007 in Dunboyne Castle Hotel, Dunboyne, Co. Meath.
  • The full conference programme is available on To register in advance, contact the IECE at 01 5053155 or email [email protected]
  • Professor Des Cahill is Professor of Intercultural Studies at the RMIT (Melbourne Institute of Technology) University specialising in multiculturalism, has advised the Australian Government on the role of religious groups and faith in society as well as having done the major evaluations and research studies on schooling and migration for the Australian Department of Education. He has extended his brief to include education and the impact that multiculturalism has on the education system and schools in general.
  • Among his publications are:
          Review of the Commonwealth Multicultural Program (1984)
          Ethnic Youth: their Assets and Aspirations (1987)
          Immigration and Schooling in the 1990’s (1996)
          Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia (2004)

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan Communications Officer (086 817 5674)