Immigration is one of those topics that most reasonable, middle of the road Irish people run away from talking about, for the simple reason that there seems to be no way of talking about it without annoying somebody from one of the two camps that seem to dominate the discussion.
Camp one, of course, is the dominant one. It’s made up of every Government-funded NGO in existence, it fields a team with all-star bruisers and experienced knife-fighters like Colm O’Gorman from Amnesty Ireland and Senator Ivana Bacik, and it has the full-throated support of every mainstream newspaper and radio presenter. These are the people who, if you dare to say something like “well, maybe we should look after our own, before accepting any more migrants”, will take to the airwaves and explain patiently why, while you yourself might not be a racist, you have certainly been taken in by racist tropes and propaganda, and are at the very least a weak-minded fool.
Camp two is not as powerful, but it’s growing in influence. These are the people who pop up on every internet post about immigration, and travel across the country to attend any meeting where the subject of immigration might arise. They’re the people who tell you that the Irish Government is engaged in a plan to replace the Irish race and dismantle Irish culture and identity, and they are convinced that their, and your, Grandchildren will be living under Sharia law, an oppressed minority in their own country.
And then there are the rest of us – people who want Ireland to be a welcoming place for all who come to live here, and who think immigration has more positives than negatives, but who want it to be sustainable and managed.
We are constantly hearing about “sustainability” these days. The Government wants “sustainable growth”. The Green party wants a sustainable environment. But if you ask for sustainable immigration, you’re treated like some class of a Nazi.
You are not a racist or a bigot if you think, as I do, that dumping hundreds of migrants into a small rural town is not sustainable. You are not a racist or a bigot if you observe, as columnist Cormac Lucey did the other day, that Ireland now has mass immigration, to the extent that 60% of all new jobs here go to immigrants.
You choose to focus on terminology rather than get into the substantive debate. But >60% net new jobs created here since 2005 have gone to non-nationals. That is an extraordinary fact that merits debate, not dismissal or accusations of “inflammatory language”.
— Cormac Lucey (@CormacLucey) September 15, 2019
There is nothing wrong with you if you observe that our immigration system is very permissive, to the extent that we reject four times fewer asylum applications than our European partners do. Nor, frankly, is there anything wrong with the observation that a great many asylum claims are transparently bogus – that’s something that the Vice President of the EU Commission also thinks.
When Michael Collins TD said yesterday that he would prefer for the Irish Government to focus on our own homeless before accepting more immigrants, his remarks were denounced by the Labour leader, and most of the great and the good, as “dangerous”. Why? Is it not reasonable to ask how, when we cannot provide homes for the people who are already living here, we are going to accommodate thousands more?
That is not a debate that the political class want to have, and so they have come up with the ingenious solution of not having it, because it would be “dangerous”. The reason they think it would be dangerous is because they believe that you and I cannot be trusted to have that discussion without blaming immigrants themselves, and turning into racists.
But the truth is, the last people to blame for a bad immigration policy are immigrants. They have done nothing that countless Irish people did not do in the past – moving to a richer country to make a better life for themselves. The fault lies not with immigrant populations, but with the politicians who have no plan to manage immigration, and no desire to have such a plan.
Not having a clear and articulated plan for managed or sustainable immigration is playing right into the hands of those people in camp two above, who argue for no immigration at all and believe that almost every immigrant is a threat to Irish culture. When Michael Collins and Noel Grealish speak out to articulate the concerns of voters on the matter, they are doing precisely what mainstream politicians should – highlighting an issue of concern and focusing the debate where it should be.
The response to them, and to events in Oughterard, has been utterly depressing. The locals in that little village have been denounced as stooges for the far right for the simple act of highlighting the impact of unsustainable immigration on their village. Grealish and Collins have been called dangerous for raising the legitimate concerns of their voters.
At no point has anyone in the political or media class stopped to ask the basic questions that all of us in the middle ground have: how many immigrants can we take, where are we taking them from, and how can we accommodate them properly and integrate them so that both they, and we, benefit from their being here?
This issue is not going away. It will continue to raise its head in town and village around the country as a direct consequence of the Government’s haphazard policy of taking in as many migrants as it can, and then dumping them as far away from Dublin 4 as it can manage, as cheaply as possible.
It’s a disgrace, and it will not end well for anyone.