Report finds evidence of 'white flight' from immigrants in northwest Dublin

DUBLIN, Ireland: A government-commissioned report Friday into the impact of heavy immigration on Dublin's schools documented what it called a dramatic pattern of "white flight" from part of the capital city.

The study, titled "Inclusive Education, Primary Challenges," examined the rapid demographic changes in elementary schools in Dublin 15, a northwest district that lies largely outside the city's major ring highway and includes its biggest shopping mall.

It said Dublin was running the risk of creating banlieues — the French term for immigrant-dominated welfare housing projects, often on a city's edge — unless government officials committed themselves to "a degree of strategic planning that until now has proved unattainable."

Such planning of community development was needed, it said, "to avoid the emergence of banlieues and to prevent 'white flight.'"

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who unveiled the report Friday, said the government would consider its recommendations, which include a new system for tracking trends in student enrollments by issuing children taxpayer-identification numbers.

He called Dublin 15 "a unique case study" on how immigration has rapidly changed Ireland, a virtually all-white society before an economic boom began in the mid-1990s. Today more than 15 percent of the 4.2 million population was born outside Ireland.

The 2006 census found that Dublin 15's population grew nearly 27 percent in five years, triple the national rate, while about 27 percent of its approximately 90,000 residents do not categorize themselves as "white Irish." The newcomers include Eastern Europeans, Asians and Africans, chiefly asylum-seekers from Nigeria.

Friday's report, which surveyed enrollment patterns at 25 elementary schools in Dublin 15, said it found "quite a serious and significant trend of Irish moving out and immigrants moving in."

From 2003 to 2007, the report said, 79 percent of new students in Dublin 15 elementary schools were non-Irish. It called "astonishing" a finding that, since 2003, more than half of students were leaving Dublin 15 schools before reaching age 12, when they would normally transfer to secondary schools in the district.

The report was written by Enda McGorman, the principal of a Catholic elementary school in Dublin 15, and Ciaran Sugrue, director of postgraduate studies in education at St. Patrick's College in Dublin.

They said Dublin 15 was a magnet for immigrants because it is a hub for recently constructed housing that Irish investors snapped up to rent. Immigrants usually lack the savings and credit history to qualify for mortgages in Dublin's exceptionally pricey property market.

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