The Taoiseach was out and about this morning, giving a speech to the annual conference of the immigrant council of Ireland.
Immigration has been something of a hot button of late, with controversies over direct provision erupting across the country. The Government is committed to introducing hate speech legislation to try and clamp down on what it perceives to be an increase in racism.
Mr. Varadkar, as is his way, announced that he had a big idea to fix it:
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suggested political parties should get extra funding if they run a certain number of migrant candidates in local elections – as currently happens if they achieve a gender quota. @immigrationIRL
— Kevin Doyle (@KevDoyle_Indo) November 6, 2019
As is increasingly common from Mr. Varadkar, this is a terrible idea, for both practical, and principled reasons. Let’s start with the practical.
For one thing, it is entirely unnecessary. Since migrants already have votes in local elections, political parties are already incentivised to run migrant candidates. In fact, they are increasingly doing so:
“The number of non-Irish candidates for the local elections has risen this year. According to the 2016 census, 810,406 residents in Ireland were born outside the country, an increase of 43,636 on 2011.
Tomorrow, 50 ‘new Irish’ candidates will appear on ballot papers up and down the country: Irish residents born outside of Ireland, or who subsequently gained Irish citizenship after moving. That’s a rise of 40% on the 2014 local elections, and 62% on 2009.”
If the number of migrant candidates has doubled in ten years, it is presumably likely to increase again at the next local elections in 2024. Why on earth would taxpayers give political parties more money as an incentive to do something that they are already doing anyway?
If it looks and sounds like a scheme to justify giving more money to Fine Gael, then there’s a fair chance that this is exactly what it is.
Now, let’s look at the many principled reasons why this is wrong.
First, it seems to promote a notion that our existing councillors are incapable of properly representing communities simply because they do not share their country of birth, or their language, or their skin tone. If this is true, is it not also the case that migrant councillors would be incapable of representing native or ethnically Irish people, on the basis that they do not share their country of birth, language, or skin tone? If one was to suggest the latter, it would pretty clearly fall within the bounds of the Government’s proposed new hate speech laws, so why doesn’t this proposal? If it’s racist to say a Nigerian cannot properly represent an Irish person, why is it not racist to imply that an Irish person cannot properly represent a Nigerian?
Second, it’s discriminatory on the basis of ideology. One might despise the National Party, for example, but it is perfectly legitimate, in a democracy, to seek election (the National Party, oddly for a party, has not yet sought election) on the basis that you seek to limit migration. This will naturally make it harder to attract migrant candidates, since few migrants will stand on a platform of limiting migration. What you end up with, therefore, is an indirect subsidy for one particular worldview on the immigration issue. This is absurd.
Third, it tends to segregate our politics and our society even further. If you instil into people a notion that they can only be properly or legitimately represented by those who look like them, or share their religion, or gender orientation, or ethnicity, where do you stop? Ireland has had a minority traveller community for centuries – why are there no quotas for traveller councillors, or gay councillors, or disabled councillors, or pensioner councillors?
We elect politicians not on the basis of who they are, but on the basis of what they can do for us, and for the country. If we go down the road of allocating politicians to particular communities and interest groups, we do the opposite of bringing people together – we explicitly divide them.
None of this matters to the Taoiseach, of course. This entirely stupid policy is not being presented on the basis that it will achieve anything at all. It is being presented solely so that people can hear that Mr. Varadkar wants to have more migrants in politics, and is thus a good guy.
If you’re one of those people who think migration is good, and culturally enriches the nation, you’ll think this is a good idea. If you’re one of those people who thinks immigration is a scam to replace you and your children, you’ll think it’s some globalist George Soros plot. The truth is that it’s just another example of this Government putting short term messaging over the good of the country, with a totally stupid idea, designed to be applauded by our totally stupid political and media establishment.