Irish society has changed dramatically in the course of the economic boom over the last decade of the 20th century. Until then, Ireland’s society was characterized by its island existence and general living conditions, but it is now firmly integrated into the social currents and processes of Europe. New ethnic groups, religions and values have broken Irish society out of its traditional structures. It is currently difficult to assess what extent this will assume and what new possibilities and problems may arise from it. What is certain is that such diversity has never occurred before in Irish society. However, it can be stated
A society is understood as the coexistence of people within the same context of life. This means that the people of a society are connected in different ways in different forms. Like any other society, Irish society can be characterized by certain characteristics. The most important characteristics include: groups, religions, values, economic situation and education. However, these do not exist on their own, but must always be viewed in relation to one another and to the present. These characteristics can be used to identify certain tendencies that reveal a lot about a society. Such is society, for example Northern Ireland continues to be more religiously shaped than society in the Republic of Ireland.
Irish society in transition
Before the onset of the economic boom, the so-called Celtic Tiger , in the early to mid-1990’s, Ireland’s connection to global developments was rather poor, especially with regard to world trade. As a result, Irish society was, on the one hand, heavily influenced by the emigration of young people who could not find work in Ireland. In return, the maintenance of traditions and values was demanded all the more intensely by the state and the church. Ireland’s society was extremely conservative. B. never given a sexual revolution. Also subcultures like punk scene in the 1980’s were in Ireland very limited available.
Of the Celtic Tiger not only brought many new jobs with it, but also helped the efforts of individual groups, which had been going on for several decades to modernize society, ultimately to success: Irish society began to open up. An example of this is the women’s movement , which sought equality for women and z. B. used for contraception. The election of MARY ROBINSON, one of the most prominent women’s rights activists, as the first Irish President in 1990 can be seen here as symbolic of a fundamental change in Irish society, which is characterized above all by the fact that the Catholic Church was increasingly losing influence.
One of the fundamental trends in Irish society is the shift from an agricultural society to an urban, technological society. The consequence of increasing urbanization is, on the one hand, the thinning of the rural regions. Young people no longer need to go abroad to find work, but most can only find employment in the larger cities. On the other hand, this has the consequence that the cities, especially the capital Dublin, continue to expand. This urbanization goes hand in hand with an increasing gap between rich and poor. With the economic prosperity for part of the population comes impoverishment all those who cannot benefit from the Celtic Tiger. More and more social hot spots are forming within the larger cities . Counteracting this social division will be one of the most important political tasks for the coming years.
The fact that Ireland has become an interesting position for foreign companies at all is due in large part to a well-developed education system that has produced a large number of skilled workers, especially in the technological field. State schools enable all children to have an education, regardless of their parents’ income. The higher, university education is tied to tuition fees, but gifted students from poor families are also supported with state funds.
Since the success of the Celtic Tiger, Ireland has not only adapted to global trends in economic terms. The so-called cosmopolitanism can no longer be found mainly in the arts, but is also reflected in people’s behavior in everyday life. Dealing with goods from foreign cultures, especially in the food sector, has become normal for the Irish. Since Ireland has become part of globalization primarily through its economic relationships, it is now also affected by certain processes that were previously unknown.
The immigration of foreign workers, especially in the medical field, is partially supported by the state and made interesting through special discounts. However, Ireland is also seeing an increasing rate of refugees and asylum seekers, whose accommodation and supplies pose major problems for cities and municipalities. The reaction of the population is also increasingly negative towards strangers. This aspect of the general change in values is without question one of the negative developments in Irish society. Ireland will have to learn to deal with the pluralism that exists in most European societies today ,the coexistence of people of different origins. Ethnic minorities, however, are not a new phenomenon in Irish society. The traveler community, which has lived in Ireland for centuries, still has a special social position today. This group, which used to roam Ireland and Great Britain as a tinker, still has to fight for its recognition in society today.
Another trend within the Republic of Ireland is the increasing distancing from religion and religious practice. In this increasing secularization there is another, strong break with traditional values, as the Catholic religion in particular has always been a sign of Irish origin (especially in contrast to Great Britain and English politics in Ireland).
The situation is different in Northern Ireland, however: denominational affiliation is still the main aspect by which social affiliation is measured. For example, Northern Irish politicians are often heard speaking of either the Catholic Community or the Protestant Community. Terrorist attacks and acts of violence are also based on religion, but the feud is everyday life has also become sad between different splinter groups from one social grouping. It should not be forgotten here that for most of the residents of Northern Ireland this term of society, which is abused by politicians and terrorists, is completely absurd: they want nothing more than peaceful coexistence.
However, the north and south also have many common problems caused by the rapid change in values: rising crime, a shockingly high rate of teenage pregnancies and excessive alcohol consumption by young people. Here the entire island is in the same trend as other countries. A very Irish phenomenon, however, is contradiction between the official legal situation and the needs of the people. For example, it is still illegal in Ireland to terminate a pregnancy. The result is that many Irish girls and women drive over to England to undergo the medical procedure. The generation conflict is expressed by the fact that the boundaries between the generations are sometimes extremely high: the parents’ generation is often still extremely conservative while the younger generation tends to be very liberal (and not harmless).
Ireland’s society has undergone radical transformation within a very short time, social practice and the political network of the state are in stark contrast to one another in some points. The comment of many researchers is that Ireland’s society has skipped the usual step from modernity to today’s society. It remains to be seen where this will lead.