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Article Title

From the Mouths of Janus: Political Constructions of Transactional EU Migrants in Ireland

Abstract

INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH INDICATES that recessionary periods may be accompanied by a decline in the quality of relations between the majority population and migrant groups as the latter are at risk of being scapegoated for the economic downturn. In that context, political leadership on the matter of immigration is of crucial importance, with political parties having a key role to play in framing how the public understand immigration.1 This article is based on research which examined how politicians construct non-Irish EU immigrants to Ireland through an analysis of the content of statements attributed to this group in the print media. The article focuses on those statements relating to welfare and the economy, which were among a larger range of themes identified in the wider study. Our sample of articles demonstrates that representatives on both the left and right of the political spectrum were found to commonly address the issue of immigration as a social problem, whether by contributing to its framing as a problem, or by seeking to contradict its problematisation. In particular, our analysis demonstrated that some representatives of mainstream parties contribute to a discourse whereby migrants are constructed as fraudulent and as burdens on the economy. Drawing on theories (McLaren and Johnson, 2004; Blumer, 1958; Quillian, 1995; Espenshade and Hempstead, 1996) that link anti-immigrant hostility to perceptions of resource competition, our paper argues that such political constructions of EU migrants reflect a neoliberal understanding of citizenship which prioritises the economic citizen. We find that such constructions will in turn ‘inform’ public debate, thus impacting on citizens’ awareness of these issues; and that they may ultimately have a detrimental impact on how immigrants and their needs are publicly perceived and treated.

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