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Ireland has a media that does not care about facts

Pop over to google, there, and insert this phrase: “17,000 undocumented migrants”.

You will find results from just about every Irish mainstream media outlet. The Irish Times. The Irish Independent. RTE. The Examiner.

You will also find it in NGO Press Releases from organisations like Amnesty Ireland, statements from law firms, and others welcoming the Government’s new scheme to regularise the undocumented (a nicer word than “illegal”) migrant community in Ireland.

The problem, in a sentence, is that “17,000 undocumented migrants” is a complete fiction. We know this because Gript’s Gary Kavanagh has been trying to find the source of it for months, to no avail. And yesterday, he reported that the people with whom the claim originated – the taxpayer funded Migrants Rights Centre – cannot even cite the name of the “study” which purported to come up with the figure.

The bottom line is this: For months, the Irish Media and Irish politicians have been presenting the public with a figure that they presented as unquestionable fact when, in fact, the figure appears to have absolutely no basis in any facts or research at all.

A basic function of the media is to question. To hold those with power to account, and make them justify the policy decisions they make which affect us all. We are endlessly told that journalism is important, and that the media is “vital”. Why?

In this instance, the media have not done their job. In fact, they have done the precise opposite of what a free and independent media is supposed to do: Rather than challenging Government assumptions, they have simply parroted them without question. Regular readers might note that there are similarities to how this same media have covered the Government on Covid, and other issues.

So why would they do that?

We are not mind readers, but it cannot be entirely coincidental that journalists have been reluctant to question figures on a policy which happens to be relatively popular with journalists. Regularising undocumented migrants has been a cause celebre on the soft political left in Ireland for some time. It is finally happening. Nobody wants to be the awkward sod who stops the thing from going smoothly, lest their motivations be questioned by one of the many NGOs in Ireland whose main function is to campaign, and whose secondary function is to provide career opportunities for ex-journalists.

It should be noted that this reluctance to do their jobs is not harmless. It is not consequence free.

When a figure like 17,000 undocumented migrants becomes accepted as fact, that has consequences for Government and the taxpayer. What appears to have happened here, for example, is that the Department of Justice sincerely believed that the 17,000 figure was based on an academic, scientific, study.

That figure, then, will have underpinned costings for the policy. It will have underpinned the decision to make the amnesty a blanket amnesty, on the grounds that the number of people involved is manageable. What if, for example, it turns out that the real number of undocumented migrants is closer to 34,000? In that case (which is perfectly plausible) the cost of the policy will be double what it is presently projected to be.

The migrant rights centre will not care: They would, after all, advocate for amnesty for a million undocumented people, if they believed that’s what the number was.

The media will not care: A policy costing more than it should is a good story, and they won’t include their own failure to point out the flaws in it as a reason for the cost explosion.

No, as ever, the person left on the hook will be the poor person who pays for it all: You.

It should not fall to Gript – a tiny outlet with four or five staff – to report these things. We do not receive a cent from the taxpayer, which makes us unique amongst Irish media outlets.

This story will probably not get much traction, because a lot of people are very invested in not speaking out in any way against what is – in establishment Ireland – seen as a major policy win, and one of this Government’s few signature achievements. Criticising illegal immigrant amnesty, or any facet of the policy, is not, as they say, “a good look” on a commentator’s CV.

But it is important, nevertheless, because it tells us so much about how Government, NGOs, and Journalism work together in Ireland to advance common policy goals, and not rock the boat too much. With no disrespect to Gary Kavanagh, who is Gript’s greatest asset, this was not a hard story to uncover. It was just that we were the only ones interested in it.

Everyone else is, remains, and ever shall be, on issues like this, happy to keep the public in the dark and feed them rubbish.

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