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The Poles first came to work in Northern Ireland in big numbers when Polish citizens were granted the right of free movement as EU members in May 2004. Many found employment here and were grateful for any type of work for it was guaranteed to provide more money than they could expect to earn at home. They worked as cleaners for Robinsons or as labourers in Camden Frames, Sam Mouldings or on the assembly line at what was then Schrader or in construction during the mini boom in 2007-2009. Whilst some worked in the health service as nurses, carers or doctors large numbers were over qualified for the jobs they first took. But with limited English and no contacts here to many it was about getting on an early rung of the ladder and then making their way from there. But the arrival of hundreds then thousands of Poles brought change to Northern Ireland. Suddenly, almost overnight, there was a sizeable third group of people. Sure Northern Ireland did have others groups of people such as the Indian and Chinese community but these were small in number, well settled and accepted. Journalists commented that since the Good Friday Agreement the two communities Protestant and Catholic so long in conflict might need another enemy and openly worried that they work look for one elsewhere. The Polish Community had closer connections to Britain than they did Ireland for their role in the British RAF is well documented. But largely Catholic by religion they may have expected a warmer welcome from the other side of the community. What type of a welcome did they get from us in Northern Ireland? And how do they remember their first years here? I set out to find out…..

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