This week, a group which seemed to made up mostly of the staff of taxpayer-funded NGOs and a wide array of politicians were out in Fairview to decry the terrible racism from ordinary working people in places like East Wall and Ballymun.
Said ordinary people have had the effrontery to feel upset when hundreds of unvetted men were placed into their communities without consultation. Clearly that needed a response from the establishment.
Not to be unkind, but the Fairview protesters are the equivalent of Lenin’s useful idiots. Their obsession with virtue signalling and standing against the imaginary bogeyman of the ‘far right’ is perhaps the most handy distraction the government has to deflect from its appalling mismanagement of the refugee crisis and the impact of same on the housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, and much else.
On Thursday, distressed families on the main evening news complained that they were being moved from hotels to makeshift accommodation – or even to tents: but no-one said that this was the inevitable and disgraceful outcome of the state making foolish promises it can’t keep.
The ‘Northside for All’ flags are of little use to people who come to Ireland only to find that there is, in fact, a capacity cap on how many refugees and migrants the country can take.
That has been the main message of the protesters in East Wall, Ballymun and elsewhere – that the state is failing to look after its own people and that Ireland cannot take an unlimited number of people, especially when that additional burden is always placed on less-affluent communities.
But the difference in media coverage for the protesters in Finglas or East Wall and those in Fairview is, of course, enormous. The bile on social media is different too.
Strange that the army of NGOs busy linking the people of East Wall to the ‘far-right’ spend no time monitoring the appalling hatred and abuse heaped on the women of Ballymun for daring to speak out about their entirely valid concerns.
I saw posts calling on the authorities to ‘take their children off them’ because some families attended the protests in Ballymun and elsewhere. This is the worst possible threat you can make to any parent. Yet that kind of hate speech is never called out.
The establishment has swung its full might against anyone who expresses concern about the Government’s disastrous handling of the current accommodation shortage. So the protesters in Fairview are depicted as being entirely virtuous and kind but the people of Drimnagh or Clondalkin are demonised.
There’s the Garda Commissioner saying scary stuff about keeping an eye on “sinister” agendas. And Simon Harris looking all frowny and serious about the motives of protesters who are opposing his government’s policies. And RTE devoting long news pieces to commentary from all sorts of NGOs and establishment figures who are using the cover of “opposing racism” to ignore the strain being placed on already struggling communities.
The whole thing is painfully choreographed, isn’t it?
It’s a bit like watching an unfunny amateur play where you can hear the prompter whispering the lines from the side, while the director manages the scene backstage, getting the actors ready to make their entrance and be part of the staged narrative.
Never mind the housing crisis, or the stabbings in Killarney, or the 11,000 Irish homeless, or the doctors saying the system is beyond capacity, or the people dying on trolleys in our disastrous hospitals, or the schools under huge pressure, or any of that old guff. Just keep the people focused on scary right-wingers and the need to be the biggest soft touch in Europe.
But the bad news for the government is that, for once, their choreographed, media-backed, spin might be faltering.
Opinion polls, as I have pointed out before, show a significant majority of people in Ireland do not support the chaos that Roderic O’Gorman and his crew in Cabinet have created by flinging the doors open and pretending we have unlimited capacity.
(Does it need to be pointed out, yet again, that this pretence is also tremendously unfair to the people coming here who might have been led to believe that housing and services can be endlessly provided in a country which seems to be coming apart at the seams.)
Before this crisis worsened, an Irish Times poll showed that a whopping 84% of respondents agreed that “there is a limit to the number of asylum seekers and refugees Ireland can cope with”. Another 60% expressed concern that “too many asylum seekers and refugees might come to Ireland”.
And that poll was taken months before refugees and migrants were being placed in tents because, yes, Ireland has no accommodation for the numbers that are coming, often from countries without war, such as Georgia or South Africa because Minister Roderic O’Gorman tweeted a welcome to all.
Most recently, on Virgin Media, a poll by ‘The Tonight Show‘ showed 90% of people are unhappy with the government’s handling of the refugee crisis. It’s a poll for a TV show, and therefore not scientifically valid, but still, 90% is an astonishing result.
Some media commentators have now begun to ask some hard questions, such as when the Newstalk presenter Pat Kenny recently challenged Nick Henderson of the Irish Refugee Council to understand that people felt that the extraordinary measures being undertaken for refugees were not taken for homeless Irish people.
He also pointed out that people were coming to Ireland from Georgia and Albania were more likely to be economic migrants. “Do you ever consider the possibility, Nick, that we might be perceived as a soft touch?” Kenny asked. No, was Henderson’s reply.
In the Irish Times, Michael McDowell struck a rare blow for common sense when he took issue with the absurd notion put forward by Minister Roderic O’Gorman that Ireland had a duty to take in climate refugees. Those numbers would, without doubt, be staggering.
But there are still plenty of loud voices given primetime platforms to tell ordinary people that even having concerns makes them racist. Here’s feted journalist Eoghan McNeill saying that the phrase “legitimate concerns” was a euphemism and added up to “your racism” being “a bit more legitimate” than “blatant racist”. Talk about shouting people down.
There is no other group of people in Ireland who can be spoken about this on the national airwaves without being granted a right of reply. None.
Meanwhile, Joe O’Reilly the Green Party TD, feels he can arrogantly tell people their protests “won’t work” and will not impact “government policy”.
And Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin answers “why would I?” when asked if he met with the people of East Wall to address their concerns. That tells you all you need to know – and might also help explain Labour’s dismal poll results.
They might all be in for a rude awakening. As my colleague Matt Treacy pointed out this week, a recent survey across a large number of EU states showed the majority of people “are both unhappy with current policies on asylum and feel that their views are not being taken into consideration”.
The imperious attitude of the establishment towards ordinary people is now coming up against an immovable object, the hard reality that Ireland cannot cope with this number of asylum seekers and economic migrants.
That’s a reality that is harder to shout down or dismiss.