More than half of farmers say Ireland should not take in anymore refugees.
However, the poll was conducted prior to the heightening of the refugee crisis and before the publication of the harrowing photographs of toddler Aylan Kurdi, and the subsequent moves by EU authorities and the Government to provide sanctuary for a much higher number of refugees than was previously the case.
In a reversal of the pattern in other sections, support for allowing more migrants into Ireland was strongest among the oldest age group, those aged 65 and over, at 40%, whereas just 23% of those aged under 34 agreed.
ICMSA president John Comer said: “The first thing to note is that the findings here were recorded before the most recent crisis and the publication of an image that so profoundly moved the world. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the figures here have changed substantially in light of the exposure given the desperate plight of those genuine refugees fleeing.
“There is however an underlying anxiety — one that I suspect is shared by the population at large — about the actual logistics and practicalities of absorbing quite sizable numbers into a society where there are already highly-publicised questions around accommodation and homelessness.
“Farmers are practical people, we have to be, and while the question of human decency and sympathy will always come first, sooner or later, practical difficulties have to be addressed and farmers move to that stage perhaps quicker than other groups in society,” he said.
Meanwhile, 41% of farmers believe Travellers should be recognised as an ethnic minority group, while 39% disagree. One fifth of neither agree nor disagree.
Younger respondents were more likely to be in favour of official ethnic recognition for Travellers. The poll shows 48% of those under 34 agreed with this viewpoint, compared with 32% of those over 65.
Earlier this year, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission chief commissioner Emily Logan said granting ethnic recognition to Travellers would help in achieving equality.
However, ICMSA president John Comer said: “Older farmers would have considered the idea that Travellers were a different ethnic group to be bizarre and asked how people with the same names, religion and physical appearance could be considered to be an ethic minority on any meaningful basis.
“As the debate around what constitutes ethnic status has developed, I suppose many people’s reactions would be that if Travellers want to consider themselves to be ethnically different to their neighbours then what’s the harm?
“We’d wonder sometimes whether there might not have been a more positive and practical way of recognising Traveller identity besides claiming special ethnic status and clearing the way for what many fear could be tsunami of litigation and legal action.”
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