Before we get in to the rights and wrongs of this, it’s worth looking at what the state’s equality commission believes is a racist comment:

“It points to recent examples which have caused it concern, including ….. Galway West TD Noel Grealish’s description of refugees from Africa as “economic migrants” seeking to “sponge off the system here in Ireland”.”

“Economic migrants” is a racist term? Well then notable racists who should be prosecuted surely include former Tánaiste Michael McDowell, and Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan, and that was with about 90 seconds worth of looking on google.

Secondly, it’s worth noting that Noel Grealish did not, as the Equality Commission claims, say that “refugees from Africa were economic migrants”. He disputed that they were genuine asylum seekers in the first place. That might seem to some of you to be splitting hairs, but it’s actually very important, because Grealish’s policy would appear to be that the country should be welcoming to asylum seekers, but have a tougher policy towards those who are economic migrants. Whether the country’s asylum policy is too willing to accept economic migrants under the heading of “asylum seeker” is a legitimate policy question, and very different from calling all asylum seekers “economic migrants”.

Now, on to the policy recommendations:

“It argues appropriate countermeasures “include codes of conduct that prohibit the use or endorsement of prejudicial and discriminatory discourse by public officials and elected representatives”.

The codes should “provide for appropriate sanctions for breach of their conditions”. The State should examine the concept of reserving seats in parliament and local government for minority and ethnic groups, and the introduction of a quota system for minority ethnic candidates in party candidate selection.”

There’s lot’s in that, so let’s take them in turn:

  • “Codes of conduct that prohibit the endorsement of prejudicial and discriminatory discourse”

What does that mean? The first and obvious question is this: Who decides what “prejudicial and discriminatory discourse” is? The democratic answer would be “politicians themselves, by a majority vote”. The problem there is that you’re essentially giving power to a majority of politicians to limit what the opposition can say. The undemocratic (and likely) answer is “The Equality Commission”, which gives power to entirely unelected people to determine what elected people can say. This would be an absurdity.

  • The codes should provide for appropriate sanctions for breach of their conditions

What on earth does this mean? What’s the “appropriate sanction” for an elected politician who calls asylum seekers economic migrants? Actually, let’s go further – imagine if a TD said something truly, genuinely, horrifyingly racist, like “black people are inferior to white people”. What’s the “appropriate sanction”?

Politicians already face sanctions every five years, in that whether they remain in their job is at the mercy of voters. This is something most of us will never have to experience, thanks to employment legislation that makes sacking people rather difficult. If you believe, as most reasonable people should, that Irish voters would not tolerate genuine racism from a politician, then sanctions are entirely unnecessary.

If you do not believe that, and think that a genuine racist would be elected time and time again, then what you’re saying is that the state should have the power to overrule the voters and punish people for opinions that have been democratically endorsed.

  • Examine the concept of reserving seats in parliament and local government for minority and ethnic groups

Why on earth would we do that? Is the argument here that a white person cannot properly represent a person from a minority ethnic group? If so, isn’t it also true that a person from a minority ethnic group cannot represent a person from the majority ethnic group?

And isn’t that about the most racist thing that you could possibly say? “He can’t represent me, he’s a Nigerian” – what’s different there from a person from Cameroon saying “I am not properly represented by Deputy Murphy because he is white and Irish”?

Let there be no doubt, by the way, that this intervention from the equality commission is part of an orchestrated campaign to introduce some form of “hate speech” law. You might recall an article on this website in late August, called “Ireland’s NGO racket”. If you don’t, here’s a quick excerpt:

“The more of these organisations you have, the more wonderful endorsements your campaign you can get. “Our campaign”, you can say, of your campaign to get more money from the taxpayer, “is endorsed by over FORTY human rights organisations”. Of course it is!”

What we are seeing at the moment is almost every single one of Ireland’s useless, taxpayer funded NGO’s lining up, as usual, on the same side of an argument. And on the other side? A small group of citizens who care enough about free speech to want to defend it.

If you trust these people to decide who is, and is not, officially decreed to be a racist, then you better never open your mouth to criticise the state again. Because that’s what this is really all about.