Let me write out a sentence here, and you can tell me whether you’ve ever heard a sentence like it before. Here goes: “It’s such a shame to see the genuine concerns of people in East Wall be exploited by outside activists and far-right agitators with a nefarious agenda”
It’s a fascinating sentence, when you break it down. The emphasis is always on one word: “exploited”.
The idea of “exploited” is fairly simple, as a piece of communication goes: It is a signal to the reader or listener to shift the focus of their attention. The sentence begins with “genuine concerns”, but these genuine concerns are not the problem. The problem is the outside activists and far right agitators who are “exploiting” those concerns to – this usually appears in a follow-up sentence – “sow discontent” in a community.
It is a very neat way of deflecting the public’s attention. Which is why it is almost always followed up by multiple reports and investigations and discussions about the “far right agitators” and their “agendas”, and almost never followed up with a discussion of what a community’s “genuine concerns” might be.
So what are these “legitimate concerns”, and why don’t we talk about them? Let’s do it.
This is the most obvious concern that people have. Already, in this country, schools are oversubscribed. GPs are oversubscribed. In some instances, people can be waiting weeks just to see a doctor, unless they have an emergency. The Gardai are already overstretched, particularly in inner-city Dublin. Housing, clearly, is oversubscribed, and the proof of that is that in East Wall, 300 people are being placed in an abandoned office block, which was never intended as a living quarters.
In relatively deprived areas like the East Wall, these issues are already magnified. Some people in that community have been on housing lists for years. Their schools are already – compared to the national average – underperforming. Fewer people than average have private health insurance, and more than average rely on the creaking public system. When you add 300 people into an area like this, those resources get stretched ever-thinner. The area was literally not designed to handle that many people – again, this is why the migrants are being housed in an office block, not in homes. The Government’s announcement of 300 new arrivals was not accompanied by any new announcement of increased resources to help the community bear the burden of demand created by those new arrivals.
Is that an unfair concern? You may differ, but this writer does not think so. Locals have every right to wonder why these people are not being sent to an area more able to cope with the additional population. Like, say, Dalkey, or Rathgar, or Terenure.
It has already been well established on this platform and on others that the inner city already has a serious crime and anti-social behaviour problem. It has problems with drug addiction, too. Many leaders in that community have been crying out for a stronger policing response, and to date those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The Government proposes to add 300 young, single men to the area. Many of these young men have nothing, and, living in an ESB office block, will have nothing to do either. They lack families, or the money to have a social life. They lack luxuries, or the resources to entertain themselves. It is an observed social phenomenon that young men – of any colour, culture, or faith – with nothing to do are vastly more predisposed towards crime and anti-social behaviour than other groups are. This is, again, nothing to do with race – it would be as true of 300 young Irish men living in an office block as it would be of 300 young Egyptian, or Australian, or Bangladeshi men.
These men are being, in the most literal sense, dumped into that building, and told to fend for themselves. Locals have every reason to fear an increase in crime, and anti-social behaviour, and indeed sexual harassment.
On that last point, by the way – did we not, in Ireland, only this year have a lengthy lecture from the great and the good about the dangers of toxic masculinity and the risks it poses to women? At one stage, after the murder of Aisling Murphy, one might have thought that every Irish man was a potential sexual murderer. And now, mostly, those same people are dismissing concerns that 300 young men at a loose end might pose a nuisance to local women.
The establishment can’t have this one both ways.
- Duration and permanence
Here’s a question that you simply never hear being asked directly: What is the intended final situation of the 300 proposed residents of the ESB office building in East Wall?
Are they to be moved on to permanent digs? And if so, when and to where?
Further, once they are moved on, will they be replaced in the ESB building by more men just like them?
We are told by the Government that this is an “emergency measure”. But then, the Universal Social Charge was an emergency measure, a decade or more ago, and it is now permanent. The income tax was an emergency measure to raise funds to defeat Napoleon. The French Emperor has been dead for 201 years, but the tax raised to beat him endures.
Why should East Wall residents believe, for one moment, that this situation is temporary, and will resolve itself?
In fact, think of it in terms of building a community: If we believe all the benefits of immigration, as relayed to us endlessly by Ireland’s politicians and NGOs, then in time, the residents of the ESB office block will become productive members of Irish society, building homes and families and lives and “giving back” to Ireland. But will they give back in East Wall?
More likely, from the point of view of locals, if they do “give back” then it will be long after they have departed East Wall, and others moved in to replace them. So the aforementioned leafy communities in Dalkey will benefit from gainfully employed gardeners and builders and labourers, while East Wall will benefit from the next tranche of “temporarily accommodated” young men, not yet considered fit to be let loose on the rest of society.
Those are three concerns that are, I think, genuine and reasonable.
What’s interesting is that this week, I haven’t heard an answer to any of them. I’ve heard a lot of people being called racists, though.
It’s been a week of shame, really, for Ireland’s establishment. It’s abundantly clear what that establishment thinks both of the East Wall, and of every other deprived community in the country that is in the process of being turned, without consultation, into a “welcoming centre”.