RACISM is rife in Irish companies, with a majority of firms twice as likely to give an Irish person an interview than a foreign national with precisely the same qualifications.
A study found discrimination is so widespread it would be "a one in a million chance" that the preference for Irish-only job seekers is an accident.
Researchers sent 240 pairs of similar but fictitious CVs bearing Irish, African, Asian and German names to companies and found the Irish applicants were twice as likely to be contacted for interview.
In some cases, Irish applicants were told the position had been filled but were offered interviews for other posts while African candidates did not get a response of any kind.
After an Irish and Asian candidate applied for an admin job, the Irish person got a call over her CV while the Asian candidate got an email saying: "I regret to inform you the position is now filled."
Richard Bacon, of the Equality Authority, said the results of the study which it carried out with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), were a serious cause of concern.
The results of 'Discrimination in Recruitment' showed much higher levels of discrimination in Ireland than found in other European countries.
Mr Bacon, the acting chief executive of the Equality Authority, added: "This has a resonance to the 1980s when people found it hard to get out of the poverty trap based on where they lived. Twenty years later we have the same myopia.
"The very old ghost of discrimination still haunts us and there is a needless loss of opportunity if we choose not to look at the skills behind the names on a CV," he added.
Dr Pete Lunn, of the ESRI, said the experiment was a first for Ireland and showed evidence of discrimination in the labour market was across all sectors ,including administration, retail and accountancy.
The study showed:
Mr Bacon added that society and some employers, while having generally positive attitudes towards immigrants, may regard foreign workers as less productive because of factors such as language skills.