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Paul Murphy’s day of rage

How does news coverage, even when it appears to be objective and fact based, influence events? Well, here’s a good example. No disrespect to Paul Cunningham of RTE, a fine reporter – but how often do you see him interviewing the organisers of marches against Government policy on immigration ahead of those marches, and allowing them to say that they expect a fine turnout?

Perhaps RTE intend to do this moving forwards. In any case, they have not done so at any stage so far, and it is therefore interesting to see this change in coverage for a march making the opposite argument.

But what, exactly, is the opposite argument?

Paul Murphy, if you asked him, would not say that he supports the Government’s immigration policy. In fact, he would claim that were he in charge of the state, things would be done differently and better. All those who needed a home would have one, through the never-quite-explained miracle of “solidarity”. My best guess at how this might be accomplished is that Paul does not believe in private property, and he would, therefore, support an approach of taking homes from those who do not need them, and giving them to those who do. Including, in this case, refugees. In his analysis, inequality, not immigration, is the problem.

But when you get beyond the slogans, what’s there? If the only solution you can posit to a problem – or, in Paul’s case, every problem – is a communist revolution turning society upside down, then you don’t actually have any solutions at all.

If we are to take Paul as representative of the protest scheduled for this coming Saturday – and RTE certainly seem to take him so – then you get the distinct impression that those taking part do not really have any solutions at all. What they have is raw anger, and most of that anger is directed at their fellow citizens.

Those opposed to Government immigration policy, for example, tend to argue that it should be limited, and there should be a cap on the number of new people allowed to come here. Others go further, and wish many already here to be sent home. You may agree or differ from those ideas, but they are at least ideas based on a real world problem – too many people for too few liveable homes.

By contrast, the Murphy position, and that of his hangers on, is that there should be no limit whatsoever on the number of people who come here, for any reason. If the mathematics do not work, then that is simply the fault of the Government for not doing enough solidarity or offering “radical solutions”.

When we are analysing the radicalism of various solutions, it is worth looking internationally, to see what the norms are: Immigration controls and restrictions, in fairness to the “far right” protestors, are in fact the international norm. They are in place in almost every other English-speaking country, and a fair few that do not speak English at all – see Japan, for example.

By contrast, no country of which this writer is aware has the policy which Paul and his co-protestors would like Ireland to adopt, or, more accurately, maintain. Because the maths do not work. You simply cannot build homes as quickly as new arrivals arrive. If Ireland were doing that, we would have had to build over 80,000 new homes last year – even with massive Government expenditure on house building, we managed just a quarter of that.

What we have, then, this coming Saturday, is a day of rage not against “racism”, but a day of rage against objective reality. And more pertinently, a day of rage against our fellow citizens.

In this analysis, the core belief seems to be that the issue the country is facing is not a chronic shortage of housing, but instead widespread racism. It is, at this juncture, useful to note that even if a magic wand could be waved, and every single instance of racist thought deleted from the minds of Irish people, the chronic shortage of housing would remain.

When there is a shortage of housing, the political issue becomes about how to allocate the little housing that is available amongst the competing claimants to that housing. Those ordinary people who see merit in, for example, the slogan “house the Irish first” are not racist, so much as they are making the relatively straightforward argument that states have a greater responsibility to their own citizens than they do to citizens of other countries. Even if all racism were waved away, that entirely un-racist analysis of the duties of a state would remain.

All of which is why this Saturday’s protest, though it will draw fawning media coverage (the good guys ride to the rescue!) will not change the basic public disposition on the immigration issue a jot. It is not, in the end, a question of race, but a question of mathematics and resource allocation.

Those questions cannot be shouted, or chanted away. But, I’m told, children often feel a little calmer after a good tantrum.

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