It’s a serious question. After all, the consensus amongst Irish elites in recent months has been that only the far-right could possibly countenance limits on the number of international protection applicants, or immigrants, or refugees, Ireland can accept. When Independent TD Carol Nolan suggested as much to the Minister for Housing in the Dáil, Darragh O’Brien responded by saying that she was “undermining national cohesion” and by sailing very close to calling her a bigot.
How can he, then, stay in a Government which, by his own standards, is undermining national cohesion? Here’s a statement from Roderick O’Gorman’s department yesterday, presumably signed off by the Minister himself:
The wider situation in regards to accommodation remains extremely challenging. The transit centre at Citywest is nearing capacity and the possibility of a pause on entry to new arrivals to Citywest due to a nationwide shortage of accommodation cannot be discounted. Ireland is now accommodating 55,000 people between those fleeing Ukraine and International Protection applicants, compared to 7,500 last year.
I have written many times about groupthink in the Irish establishment, but perhaps not emphasised enough how ours is a unique kind of groupthink. It’s not like the groupthink you find in some institutions, where because a thing has always been done a particular way, nobody can dream of changing it, or even imagine a different way of doing things. Ours is flexible groupthink, where the entire establishment is capable of turning on a dime, and where a thing that was dangerous heresy one moment becomes sensible and moderate policy the next, and vice versa. That’s why my favourite definition of “far right” is “somebody who believes today everything Leo Varadkar publicly believed in 2011”.
We have always been at war with Eastasia. The possibility of “pausing” new arrivals was always legitimate. Trans women are women. What we said five minutes ago, you dreamed.
In my other piece today, about the chanting by the Irish soccer team, I touched on the fact of Irish tribalism. Irish elite tribalism is of a different character altogether, and responsible, consistently, for almost every policy disaster that befalls the country. The Irish elite – across all parties, media outlets, and what passes for “civil society” – are addicted to marginalising dissent and looking for opportunities to “don the green jersey”, which is a polite way of saying “suppress all one’s critical faculties in service of the national cause”.
Thus it has come to pass in recent months that any criticism of immigration policy is heretical. One can list the experts – otherwise sensible people – who have persistently insisted that immigration and housing are not related, or at least, not meaningfully related. One such expert is a TCD economist who I know to be a very smart fellow, but who nevertheless insists in regular reports that two plus two, when it comes to housing, does not necessarily mean four. Others of his ilk go further, and insist that basic sums are almost racist by default.
But the problem with maths is that it is irresistible. The country simply does not have sufficient accommodation for the people in it, let alone the people being added to it by Government policy on refugees and immigration. It speaks well to our character as a country that we want to help every refugee we can. It speaks poorly of our character of a country that we seem unwilling to figure out what that number is, and stick to it.
Which brings me back to the question in the headline: Is Roderic O’Gorman far right now? Of course not, or at least, not unless he shifts even further left than he already is, past even Stalin and Paul Murphy, and ends up on the far right by accident. But the point is a simple one: If it’s not far right to consider a migration pause today, then it never was.
Calling people names is not a substitute for good policymaking, or an argument for one’s own views. In Ireland, it leads us into peril every time we do it. Critics are not always right, but those who warned of recession in 2006/7 were right, and Bertie Ahern suggested suicide as something they should contemplate. Lockdown critics were right persistently about the relationship between restrictions and cases, and RTE called them conspiracy theorists. Those who doubted the wisdom of vaccine mandates were right, and no outlet other than the one you are reading so much as gave them a hearing.
And those who have been saying immigration is unsustainable for months, even years, have been clearly right, and called “far right” for their troubles.
If they were far right, so is Roderic O’Gorman. If he is not, then neither were they. And the Irish establishment needs to stop this pattern of nonsense, or these disasters will keep befalling the country.