C: Houses of the Oireachtas

Let’s just face facts: Helen McEntee is bad at her job.

In the past week, Gript has reported two facts in relation to Irish immigration policy that should be setting off alarms in the public. First, my colleague Matt Treacy revealed how in many cases, an illegal immigrant convicted of a crime is ordered to “self-deport”. That is to say, they are asked nicely to remove themselves from the country of their own volition. They are not, as the public might expect, taken to the airport and put on a plane back to their place of origin.

Second, my colleague Ben Scallan reported on Sunday that since the present Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, took office, the number of migrant criminals deported for serious crimes has more than halved. Neither of these facts is in dispute: Ireland is simply taking an inordinately lax attitude, under the present Minister for Justice, to removing criminals who have no right to be here in the first place. It is an astonishing failure of the most basic duty of Government: To keep the state secure.

Unfortunately, it is a failure that is, by and large, escaping attention. I have written before, and at length, here, about the deep-seated cultural reluctance on behalf of Irish politicians, journalists, and public figures to speaking about anything even tangentially connected to immigration in a way that isn’t simply to affirm that all immigration is good, and that diversity strengthens us, and so on. You’ve all heard it so often now that you could probably recite the approved talking points on immigration yourselves.

But this is not about immigration as a general issue. There is, after all, a real and meaningful difference between the person who comes here legally to work, and build a new life, and the person who comes here illegally, and then commits crimes while they are here. The first person has broken no laws, either in coming here, or remaining in the country. The second person has broken both our immigration laws, and then our criminal laws. Deporting them back to whence they came need not even be a matter of debate: It is a basic responsibility of Government to do that.

But our public life has now become so culturally corrupted that politicians are apparently unwilling to examine, understand, or explain the difference between the two groups. “Illegal” immigrants have long since been redefined as “undocumented” migrants. Try saying that one to a judge if you don’t have a television licence. “I’m just an undocumented television watcher, your honour”. See how far it gets you.

It says a lot that this failure to carry out the basic security functions of the state is taking place under the stewardship of a Minister who, like Simon Harris before her, is winning the adulation of the media for reasons entirely unconnected to her job performance. Helen McEntee had a baby last year, and took maternity leave. For that distinction she won almost universal acclaim. She has been feted in both major national broadsheets as a future Fine Gael leader.

But look at her record in office: What, exactly, has she achieved? Crime in parts of Dublin is so bad that her own party colleagues are now openly saying that they fear to walk the streets of our capital city. Under her stewardship, we have seen a spate of high-profile crimes against women – something for which, oddly, the men of the country have been blamed, while the Minister for Justice has accepted or been expected to accept no responsibility.

Yesterday, we saw yet another horrific crime perpetrated against the elderly. Again, McEntee accepts, and is expected to accept, no responsibility. If there were a scandal about abuse of the elderly in a nursing home, the Minister for Health would be expected to comment. But as crime rises, it’s as if the Minister for Justice is entirely detached from it.

Her focus in office has been entirely on irrelevant culture war causes beloved of Ireland’s armada of campaigning, government funded, lobby groups: Hate crime legislation. Hate speech legislation. Legalising illegal immigrants. Advancing the cause of gender neutral toilets. Setting up various talking shops on equality for women. She’s done everything bar set up a blue ribbon commission on the use of pronouns.

But in terms of her basic job, which is to keep the public safe, and reduce crime, she has delivered basically nothing.

And yet, while this is widely privately acknowledged in political and media circles, she’s rarely received so much as a word of criticism from either politicians or the media. Amongst politicians, that is understandable: Fine Gael sees her as a potential leader who might win votes, and as such, her record of actual delivery is not that important to them. Amongst journalists, and opposition parties of the left, it’s much more about an unwillingness to be seen to be criticising a progressive woman who’s breaking the glass ceiling, or, you know, insert your own platitude there.

One of the biggest problems in Ireland is just this: That, over the past few years, performance in office has been supplanted as the standard by which the media judges politicians by Performance in office. Records are as naught compared to what cultural boxes a politician ticks. Are you good at empathising with people on TikTok, and speaking out against Brexit and the “far right” and the “culture of misogyny” in Ireland? You’ll get warm coverage, if so. It doesn’t much matter what you do.

Ireland does not have a very good Minister for Justice because Ireland has a Minister for Justice who does not understand the job: Her job is not, in fact, to preach and preen. It is to keep the public safe. She is completely failing to do it. And, in time, her party and her Government will pay a price for it. So will the country.

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