Credit: Today FM

Matt Cooper declares: I’m not a racist, but

What do you call a person, in Ireland, who advocates for temporarily closing the borders, and limiting the number of people permitted to come to the country either as refugees, or economic migrants?

In recent years, the answer to that question has been “far right”. But then, it very much depends, as with so much else in this country, on who you are, rather than what you say.

For example, when Carol Nolan, an elected TD, called for such a cap last summer in the Oireachtas, the Minister for Housing accused her of “undermining social cohesion”.

When various local communities across the country in recent months called for such caps, either specific to their area or nationwide, the media has been uniform in darkly muttering that such local communities have self-evidently been “infiltrated” by dangerous far right elements.

It’s fascinating, then, to observe the media silence about one of their own, one Matt Cooper, who wrote this at the weekend:

“It can be very difficult to have serious discussions about putting limits on immigration and refugees without saying things that may give succour to the (thankfully) small number of racists and xenophobes who live among us…..”

….“There has to be a serious discussion about the current crisis arising in our care for the foreigners who come to us in need. There are also Irish people who have cause for legitimate concern as to how we are doing this, because it impacts on them.

Questions have to be raised as to how we can cope with even more people coming in and whether the answer may have to be a temporary halt, an effective closing of our borders.”

It’s a useful reminder that in Ireland, who you are matters much more than what you say. If you are a working class single mum from Ballymun or Drimnagh and you raise concerns about immigration in a dangerously working class accent, then you simply will not be taken as seriously, or given the benefit of the doubt, in the way that an impeccably middle class radio host with a €2,500 annual membership in Powerscourt Golf Club will be, if he or she says the exact same things. The quality of your reasoning, in Ireland, has always, and will always, be of lesser importance to establishment Ireland than the perceived quality of your social standing.

And indeed, the assumptions made about you will differ: Nobody, for example, will wonder if Matt Cooper has been spending too much time in far-right telegram groups, or whether he has been influenced by fake news online. His words will not be seen as a potential hate speech risk, or inspiring others to resent refugees, or migrants. Indeed, he was very careful to signal his own legitimacy at the expense of others: He is not one of those racists or xenophobes who, in this instance, just so happen to agree with him. In fact, he is speaking out because otherwise, those dreadful people might be the ones to make the argument he is making, and it would be dangerous to leave them such a good argument to make.

Note that the concern here is not, truly, about the impact of immigration policy on the health or education services. It is, instead, about the impact of the immigration policy on the political security of the Irish political and media establishment: Immigration itself is not the problem. The problem is that immigration might be giving “succour” to racists and xenophobes and other assorted classes of undesirable.

But Matt Cooper, of course, is not any of those things. He is a member of the media, and the establishment, in good standing, and therefore he can say things that you or I are not allowed to say. Nobody serious will call him a racist, or accuse him of whipping up anti-migrant sentiment. He is of the elect – that group of people at the top of Irish society who get, at every turn, the benefit of the doubt and the grace of being assumed to be acting and speaking only from the most benign and heartfelt and selfless of motives. If he calls for closing the border, then it is because he has cast a wise and learned and liberal gaze across the vast plains of Irish public policy and arrived at a considered and reasonable conclusion. If you do it, it’s probably because you’re a low-life far-right stooge. Those are the rules.

And indeed, people who would turn their faces away aghast from such rhetoric, coming from an angry truck driver with a megaphone, will instead nod soberly when it comes from a genteel columnist.

But they both, at the end of the day, are advocating the same policy. It’s not about what you believe, and it never has been. It’s about who you are.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are closed

Do you favour HAVING a referendum to insert a right to housing into the constitution?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...