President of Ireland stresses the benefits of immigration

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The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), an Irish migrant's rights group, wants the cultural benefits of immigration recognized along with the economic benefits.

The ICI has released 'The Richness of Change', a series of short films depicting personal experiences of migrants who have made a new life in the Emerald Isle. The event was held at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.

ICI chief executive Denise Charlton said it should not matter whether an immigrant was a CEO of a company or a domestic worker -- they all have contributions to make to Irish society.

The event was attended by Irish President Mary McAleese and Ireland's first black mayor, Nigerian-born Rotimi Adebari.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, ICI founder and board member, said that Ireland is now recognizing integration as an important issue, but more needs to be done.

"The Government must set as a priority the development of effective integration policies, which are based on the principle of equality and fully acknowledge the cultural and social benefits of diversity," she said.

President McAleese, in her address to ICI, said that "on a purely economic level, Ireland has benefited significantly from inward migration. With our low levels of unemployment, the economy needs foreign workers to fill the jobs that in turn lead to further growth and prosperity."

"But Ireland is far more than simply an economy," the President added. "Now this influx of talent, cultures and peoples presents us with a new set of realities, a new set of opportunities to build on, and challenges to deal with, to ensure that tomorrow's Ireland is a place that is flourishing humanly as well as being prosperous."

With its burgeoning "Celtic Tiger" economy, Ireland has become an increasingly popular destination for migrants. After the former Communist nations of Eastern and Central Europe joined the European Union in 2004, thousands of their citizens came to find work in Ireland.

The country also recently revamped its immigration policy for migrants from outside the EU and the European Economic Area, introducing programs such as the Irish Green Card and Irish Work Permit schemes.