Words like “extremist” get bandied about quite a bit today in politics.
“You’re an extremist!” people often say to one another during debates. “He’s an extremist! She’s an extremist!” It’s actually a bit like the Late Late Toy Show – there’s an accusation of political extremism for everyone in the audience. We hear it all the time, in all sorts of contexts from politicians and the media. It’s nothing new, and it usually doesn’t mean much.
But despite being used quite frivolously these days, and tossed around like eggs at a cafeteria food fight, the word actually does have a set definition and meaning which is quite noteworthy.
After all, the word “extreme” comes from the Latin “extremus,” which means “the outermost” or “the edge.” Think of your “extremities” – the parts of your body that are furthest from the centre, like your hands and feet. It’s the same etymology.
So therefore, to be an “extremist” in politics is to hold views that are on the outermost edge of the political spectrum. It is to support policies and ideas which are far beyond what anyone remotely ordinary or moderate believes.
And in that context, it’s hard to think of a better word to describe those setting Ireland’s immigration policy in 2023. And for an example of this, we need look no further than two stories which came out in just the last week, both of which really help put things in perspective.
First of all, many people will have seen Integration Minister Roderic O’Gorman declaring just last week that there is a “very real” chance refugees will end up languishing homeless on the streets of Dublin due to a lack of accommodation.
Asylum seekers arriving into Ireland face being homeless due to a lack of accommodation https://t.co/p26S69bBR2
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) January 19, 2023
Last year Ireland accepted a total of 83,814 refugees (including over 70,000 Ukrainians) – vastly more than our typical annual intake. And after a year of this absolutely astonishing surge in asylum claims, O’Gorman has said that there is quite literally nowhere to put people anymore. The government will instead be giving new arrivals food vouchers and contacting them if and when a place to sleep becomes available.
And bear in mind that, as bad as this situation might seem, it was agonising to even get to this point. The government has truly pulled out all the stops, and crammed alleged refugees into every nook and cranny of the country from top to bottom, whether local communities wanted it or not. From East Wall to Kinnegad, Lisdoonvarna to Drimnagh, they have absolutely overloaded every structure they can possibly get their hands on, including office blocks and sporting arenas- all at an enormous social and financial cost to the general public.
140 Ukrainian refugees will sleep in Croke Park's executive suites, which are usually used for corporate hospitality. https://t.co/22881eBvO8
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) January 7, 2023
They have truly done everything they could possibly do, and even attempted to do things they could not do (like putting refugees into an actual abandoned prison).
And so, faced with this obviously hopeless situation, that has to be it – right? The government must realise their mistake in having a “no cap” policy at this stage, and finally be ready to admit to the world’s asylum claimants that “Sorry lads, we actually can’t accommodate you or anyone else – we’re packed to the rafters here.”
Well, not quite.
According to Junior Integration Minister Joe O’Brien this week, the government is bracing for yet another 80,000 asylum claimants this year, in addition to the 80,000 that arrived last year. And this was announced mere days after Roderic O’Gorman’s statements about refugees being on the verge of homelessness as we speak.
Government should plan for over 80,000 migrants to come into Ireland this year – new integration Minister Joe O'Brien https://t.co/VjU5FJygFd
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) January 23, 2023
So to translate, if one person arrives in Ireland today seeking asylum, the government probably won’t be able to offer them a place to stay. But at the same time, they’re open to the idea of accepting 80,000 people in the next year.
Let’s not mince words here: this is not a dumb policy. It’s not an ill-advised policy.
It is, in fact, a lunatic policy. No rational, reasonable person would ever dream of pursuing it – a child could tell you why it was a bad idea.
And yet, that is the policy of Ireland today.
Not to bring up an unrelated issue, but it’s worth noting that both Ministers making these statements – Roderic O’Gorman and Joe O’Brien – are Green Party TDs. And the Green Party is the main party which drove the turf ban – the same turf ban which Fine Gael TDs said was so unpopular it could “bring down the government.”
Fine Gael TDs, some of whom heckled and shouted down Eamon Ryan, left the minister in no doubt as to the strength of feeling in the party about the turf regulations https://t.co/mm5jox1tQL
— Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) April 27, 2022
Without absolving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians of responsibility for their roles in this crisis, one might actually be inclined to feel a bit of pity for them. After all, they’re shackled to a party which seems determined to make the 33rd Dáil the most despised government in years. If Sinn Féin were paying the Greens to kamikaze the entire coalition’s electoral chances, things probably wouldn’t look much different to what we’re seeing now. The train is going off a cliff, and the entire cabinet is going with it.
If this government ends up being destroyed electorally in a few years time, it will be because of the Greens and their objectively extremist agenda, which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have acquiesced to at every turn. And every government TD that loses their seat will deserve it, because they couldn’t muster the balls to point out the obvious now.