Migrants blamed for the sins of others – Gerry Adams

Divide and conquer is an age-old tactic. It is often utilised by conservative elements to advance their regressive agendas. This is true of the Irish as it is of any other nation. In fact, historically some Irish people have acted against the interests of Ireland and supported imperialistic and other colonial or domestic adventurers.  Nonetheless, the vast majority of Irish people are fair-minded, decent and progressive.  

At this time conservative and right wing elements are exploiting the issue of asylum seekers and immigrants or race to advance their own agenda. They deliberately heighten the mistaken belief by some that ‘outsiders’ are responsible for too few jobs, low wages, or a lack of housing, All of the ills of society are blamed on these ‘others’ who are of a different ethnicity or race or religion, colour or language or customs. Northern society suffers to this day from divisions supposedly based on religious belief. Nowadays, however, many have come to understand that this is false. It is sectarianism pure and simple, created and sustained to divide. So too with racism. Not everyone concerned about immigrants is a racist.  But their fears are being whipped up by those who are. 

The reality of course is that it is governments that have responsibility for managing their societies and economies. If there are not enough homes it is because the government is not planning for or building them. It is not the fault of immigrants. But if there is a housing shortage and there is and immigrants are being accommodated – even in tents –  it is easier to pick on them. 

Today the right wing is at it again. Lies are being told and they are being aided in this by the incompetence of a bad government in Dublin.  A lack of planning or consultation with local communities and a failure to invest adequate resources in communities affected has provided the right wing with the opportunity to raise tensions and fears. The government’s immigration policy can best be described as shambolic. It is not fit for purpose.

In recent weeks the Minister for Justice claimed that 80 per cent of those applying for asylum in the South are coming from Britain via the North. She has no evidence, no statistics, no data to support this claim but the result is that the right wing and some of its allies in the political system and media demand that the border be re-imposed and checkpoints established.

Add this to the lack of planning: the chaotic and very public mess by government of finding hotels or other accommodation. The recent removal of tents in Dublin – and let’s not forget that is how the Traveller community has been treated for decades – is a disgrace. 

What is needed is an immigration policy that is rooted in the human values of compassion, fairness  and friendship. 

Gerry Adams with Sinn Féin Vice President, Michelle O’Neill

As Mary Lou McDonald told the Oireachtas last week: “That means an immigration system that is fair, efficient and enforced, and a system with common sense that safeguards social cohesion and protects human rights. Both can be done effectively in parallel.”

The reality is that public services North and South would collapse if it were not for the many immigrants who have travelled to the island of Ireland in recent years. Our hospitals, nursing homes, schools, transport system, retail sector and much more would crumple without the new Irish. And they all pay their taxes and contribute to the well being of our society. Just like we Irish do in other parts of the world. 

According to Migrant Rights Ireland:

  • The South is in the top ten of states whose nationals emigrate to work.
  • It has the second highest proportion of its population living in other countries of the EU.
  • International studies show that it will need migrant workers to support an increasingly dependent population.
  • The majority of migrant workers are of working age and contribute more to the economy in taxes and PRSI than they receive in public services or social welfare.
  • It has been estimated that migrants contribute €3.7 billion to the economy annually through taxes and PRSI, work permit fees, immigration registration fees, higher education fees and personal consumption.
  • Migrant workers and their families contribute to society and their local communities.

In addition a report from the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) several years ago found that migrants help increase economic growth, ease labour market shortages, improve output and contribute to reducing earnings inequality. And Róisín Fitzpatrick of Deloitte Ireland said in 2022 of the impact of the pandemic: “The foreign nationals who have taken up the healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes and care facilities since July 2021 have allowed us to support and care for those most vulnerable in Irish society.”

So, we need a fair and responsible, human rights-compliant immigration system. Immigrants are not the enemy, but those who promote hatred and division certainly are. 

There was a time when it was the Irish, fleeing hunger, poverty and the repression and exploitation of British colonialism, who were marginalised, denigrated and depicted as thuggish and ape-like. The diaspora that escaped to Britain, the USA and elsewhere across the globe, especially after the great hunger, were treated dreadfully in their new countries. We should never allow ourselves to do on to others what was done on to us. 

This piece was first published in the May 20th edition of the Irish Echo. You can read the original here.