It is estimated that there are presently 150,000 Polish citizens living in the Republic of Ireland, resulting in Polish becoming the second most widely spoken language on the island. The Polish population in County Clare is approximately 2,500, including 1,254 Polish people living in Ennis and 10,000 in Shannon and Limerick (Census 2011).
The Polish Irish Association (PIA) was established in Ennis in 2013 by a group of Polish immigrants living and working in the town and county. The aim of the group is to help to facilitate a wider call among Polish immigrants in Clare to organise Polish cultural and national events. It is hoped that by promoting these events the group will help to encourage cultural integration between Polish, Irish and other nationalities and provide the opportunity to share Polish traditions with the wider community.
To champion the diversity that Polish people bring to Ireland, Polska Éire has been established as a nationwide festival. It is an event that was introduced in 2015 and has been strongly supported by former Minister of State Mr Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Ambassador of Poland Mr Ryszard Sarkowicz. In 2015 the festival was a fantastic success with almost 150 events held across Ireland. This year’s edition of the festival has been prepared and managed by the group of devoted Polish and Irish members of the Polska Éire Steering Committee, chaired by Mr. Piotr Rakowski from the Polish Embassy in Dublin and supported by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and the Department of Justice and Equality staff. The aim of the festival is to promote and strengthen Polish-Irish bilateral relations, both at national and community level; to celebrate cultural diversity as well as similarities between the two nations; to further strengthen integration between Irish and Polish communities; to address important issues faced by Polish people in Ireland, such as multilingualism, identity and economic issues and to celebrate the diversity that Polish people bring to Ireland. The festival aims to accomplish all this by means of various cultural, sports, business, academic and community events.
The grand opening of the 2016 Polska Éire Festival will take place in the De Valera Public Library in Ennis on Thursday 19th of May at 6.30pm. It is the second time that the PIA is organising this event in Ennis. The launch will begin with the traditional Polish custom of welcoming guests with bread and salt. There will also be some traditional Irish treats on offer with a mix of Polish and Irish traditional music to entertain guests as they arrive. At 7pm Councillor James Breen, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council will officially launch the Polska Éire Festival, along with members of the PIA. Following the speakers, the library will transform into a cinema for a showing of the 1980 Polish cult movie Miś (Teady Bear) directed by Stanisław Bareja.