€1.1billion is, in many ways, a frustrating number to report on for the simple reason that a good many people cannot imagine a billion euros. It is the writer’s duty, therefore, to put it in simple terms.
Put it this way: If you wanted to earn 1.1 billion euros in a lifetime, earning the Taoiseach’s annual salary of €211,742 per year, you would need to work continuously for 5,195 years. To have earned that much money and have it in the bank today, you’d have needed to start working perhaps two thousand years before the Pyramids were built in Egypt. You’d have been working for 3 millennia before Christ was born.
If you earned less than the Taoiseach – say a “good” wage of €80,000 per year, you’d have been at it for 13,000 years. Or in essence, you’d have started working before the invention of the wheel.
Finally, if you were lucky enough to win the lotto jackpot, assuming an average Irish lotto jackpot of about €5m, then you’d have to win it every week for more than four years to get close to one point one billion euros.
That, then, is the scale of the money that will be lost to the Irish tourism sector this year as a result of the Government’s immigration policy, per figures released to the Irish Independent’s Senan Moloney:
The document presented to ministers in recent days warns that the level of refugee and asylum-seeker occupancy of hotels will have a serious impact on tourism spending in the coming months.
It predicts the economy will lose out on an estimated €1.1bn, with reduced spending from tourists and other factors.
The document also says that attractions and activities here, that depend on tourist spending, will need financial supports as a result.
Full details of the cost were spelled out in the ‘Discussion Paper on Displaced Tourism Accommodation’.
What’s more, that €1.1billion is not the full picture: It is simply the revenue lost as a result of accommodation not being available to tourists who would pay for it. It does not include the other side of the ledger, which is the money the Irish Government is paying to occupy those rooms and beds itself: That, too, is likely to run to a billion or more.
These costs have been incurred with virtually no public debate and precious little public protest: The disposition of the media and the political class has simply been that if you approve of the scale of immigration over the past 18 months, you are part of a new and welcoming Ireland – and that if you do not approve, you may well be a dangerous far right activist, or have been seduced by dangerous far right ideas. And yet, these billions represent the livelihoods and incomes of real people. The state alone is not bearing the costs.
What’s more, there is little evidence that much benefit has been delivered either to those seeking refuge, or to those already here. The country is laden with stories of “refugee welcome centres” full to bursting, and local communities filled with a quiet fear – justified or unjustified – of the new arrivals in their communities with nothing to do. Many schools cannot accommodate either the number or the languages of the children who have been added to their rolls; Many of those new children are just settled in one school when the state uproots them and shunts them off to the other side of the country; When refugees do get jobs, they live in fear of the call from Roderic O’Gorman that they, too, are to be relocated to some new place. We have spent billions to create a transient and unsettled population, and hundreds of millions more on Government campaigns to remind everyone to shut up about it lest they be thought the wrong type of person.
It is safe to say that any other policy involving these kinds of cost would have been subject to an entirely different kind of public debate: The costs are in the same region as those for the troubled national children’s hospital, which has been the subject of endless national debate. They are not far off the costs of rebuilding MICA homes in Donegal, which was a controversy that ran on for months. They are only slightly dwarfed by the national broadband plan, which was debated back and forth for a decade.
But a debate there should be: it is not immediately clear for example that the billions spent on accommodating refugees in Ireland would not have delivered more national benefit had they been divided instead between spending on improved border controls, and spending to speed up the asylum process with more courts and gardai dedicated to the issue. Had we done that, we might have many fewer asylum seekers, and much better accommodation and integration for those who were here in the end.
As it is, we are harming our own economy, and making many of our own citizens poorer, for a very dubious benefit either to Ireland, or those people that Ireland has condemned to spend the next many years of their lives living in a dilapidated hotel in ballysomewhere.