Members of Ireland’s Polish community gathered outside Leinster House on 1st of May 2024 to mark the 20th anniversary of Poland joining the EU. Organised by Forum Polonia, the Polish migrants’ rights organisation, the gathering highlighted the experiences of the 123,000 Polish migrants who have made Ireland their home.

Following the gathering, Polish community representatives met with Minister of State for Community Development, Integration and Charities Joe O’Brien TD in Leinster House. Minister O’Brien holds special responsibilities for integration.

The meeting was an invitation to the Government to collaborate with Polish organisations to advance the inclusion of the Polish community in public life.

Speaking at the event, Barnaba Dorda, Chair of Forum Polonia said, “The Polish community is one of the largest minorities in Ireland with Polish being the third most spoken language after English and Irish. Over the last 20 years, we have blended in well with Irish society due to our EU citizenship status as well as similarities in a history of struggle for independence, but we have a long way to go when it comes to access to integration supports and representation in public life and decision-making processes.”

One in 50 Irish residents are Polish but the community have been underrepresented in politics in Ireland over the last 20 years and still struggle to access integrations supports like programmes supporting political participation, employment bridging schemes, and good quality English classes.

Mr Dorda continued, “Twenty per cent of Polish migrants do not speak English or do not speak it well according to the CSO. Without proficiency in English, Polish migrants face barriers in healthcare, education, social integration and employment.

“We know that there’s a documented pattern of discrimination against Eastern Europeans, among them Polish workers, who earn 40% less than their Irish counterparts. And we know that migrants are disproportionately falling into homelessness with one in four newly presented homeless being EU migrants.  The Dublin-based Polish homeless organisation ‘Barka’ is expanding to Limerick and Cork due to increased demands for services, with Romanians and Poles most often seeking support.”

Political Representation

Teresa Buczkowska, Coordinator of Forum Polonia said, “We have a very vibrant Polish community that is active at a local level and is willing to participate in public life when supported and invited. However, the gaps in support and restrictions in accessing diversity and inclusion programmes and funding options diminish our civic and political participation.”

Polish migrants, due to their EU status, are at times restricted from accessing integration services, programmes, and funding reserved for migrants originating from outside the European Union.

‘Sometimes it feels that we are considered too diverse to be included and not diverse enough to be supported. That is a paradox of inclusion. Our understanding of diversity must expand otherwise migrant communities such as Polish will continuously fall between gaps of inclusion,’ said Ms Buczkowska.

Wojciech Bialek, Deputy Chair of Forum Polonia, has delivered essential integration support for the Polish and Ukrainian community both locally and nationally. He said, “The Polish migrant community made a significant contribution to Ireland, and we have more to offer. Many of our essential workers are Polish. We also played an instrumental role in supporting Ukrainian refugees as we know what it means to be a migrant in a new country. We need to be supported in continuing to do so.”