Panti Bliss declares: These East Wall protests have “shamed the place”

Well, that’s you told:

I am fascinated, I must confess, by how the concept of “shame” is supposed to work here. How can a place be shamed by the actions of individuals?

Are we to take it that good lefties who oppose the protests that took place in East Wall over the weekend, and again yesterday evening, are to feel shame? Are they to hide their faces in public? Don a paper bag over their heads when entering the hallowed halls of Pantibar? Are they responsible, in other words, for the political views of their neighbours?

Anyway, incoherent as it might be, Queen Panti’s criticism was not a one-off. Here’s ex-Green darling, and one-time future of women in politics, Saoirse McHugh, with some thoughts:

It’s notable that Gript and a few tabloids aside, the East Wall protests have received basically no mainstream media coverage in Ireland. Certainly, they have mostly escaped the attention of the national broadcaster, and the country’s paper of record. Why is that?

I suspect, dear reader, it is because the majority view of the employees of both those organs is much closer to that of Panti and Saoirse here than it is to the median resident of the East Wall. To the protestors, these protests might be about the fact that their local resources are strained to breaking point, and that they have insufficient doctors, and not enough gardai, and that their streets are already relatively unsafe. To the country’s chattering class, of which Panti and Saoirse are fully paid-up members, the protests are simply about racism. The East Wall doesn’t like foreigners. That’s it; end of story. Not covering the protests is actually doing the protestors a favour, lest the rest of the country get – as the chattering classes see it – the right idea about them.

And then of course there’s the other element: The notion that these protests are in some way not really genuine, and that the silly low-status people of the East Wall have been fooled in some way. The left tends to see working class people protesting against immigration and automatically assume that the protestors have been deceived and manipulated in some way by the dastardly “far right” and the like – as if they are not acting on their own initiative at all, but have been tricked into it. The left cannot oppose the working classes, at least, not overtly. But what it can do, and does do, is to infantilise the working classes in such a way as to present them as having no views of their own, and just a hopeless mob to be herded by the far-right wolves. There’s a lot of that about, today.

And there’s also fear: Fear that the protests might inspire other protests.

Much of the power of the establishment in Ireland lies in the idea that their view is in such an overwhelming majority that no relatively sensible person would ever dare to speak out against it. There’s a reason why the East Wall protests are disproportionately made up of working-class voices, and it is because those people are the ones with the least to lose, and therefore the least to fear from speaking out. Meaning no disrespect to them, but the people protesting over the weekend don’t have jobs in big accounting or law firms to lose, and they don’t have promotions that they might be passed over for on account of associating with the wrong sort of idea. They don’t have columnist jobs that might be imperiled by not speaking and writing in the mildest terms. Most of them don’t have twitter accounts that might be washed away in a storm of online outrage for their daring to speak out against immigration.

Those that do suffer those fears and limitations have been conditioned to speak and think about these issues in a certain way. For example, if you do criticise immigration, you must do it in very vague terms and on certain grounds only – for example, you must criticise the Government for a lack of planning for the migrant crisis, without ever talking about whether the migrants themselves have a right to be here or not. That latter point is the red line a civilized person must not cross.

But the spectacle of busloads of young and overtly healthy men arriving to live in a former office block should raise a basic question: Why are these people here?

If they are fleeing the war in Ukraine, then they should be at home, helping the many brave Ukrainian men defending that country. If they are fleeing economic troubles in the middle east or North Africa, then they should be at home, using their skills to rebuild their countries. My colleague Matt has written extensively about the number of these men who come from “safe” countries – places like Albania and Georgia, where the only thing to flee from is joblessness and misery.

Ireland has no obligation, of any kind, to give a home to healthy young men from safe countries. We lack the resources to accommodate them, and in fact we lack the resources – as the housing crisis makes clear – to accommodate Irish citizens. It shouldn’t take the people of the East Wall to state that clearly.

The shame here is not theirs. The shame is on the rest of us, who shut up for fear of being called a racist by a vapid clown dressed as a woman.

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