The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

An Ireland of Welcomes Should Be

Mick Hall • 21 April 2005

Daily Ireland recently published a letter by Cathal Mac Murchada; in it he claimed if Ireland does not stop the inward flow of Asylum Seekers/economic migrants, then the Irish people might become a minority in their own land by the year 2050.

I have no gripe against the newspaper for publishing the letter, after all a newspaper's letters page is there to reflect the opinions of the paper's entire readership, and there is little doubt these types of ill thought through anti-immigrant tirades have become a fact of life these days, not only within Ireland, but also throughout most of the nations that make up the European Union. Right wing politicians and their accomplices in the media have manipulated the unease sizeable sections of the general public feel over immigration, their reason being to create a peg on which to hang their reactionary politics. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than within the United Kingdom during the current general election campaign, where the Conservative Party leader Michael Howard has placed immigration at the top of his party's somewhat flimsy election manifesto. Something similar happened in the Republic of Ireland during the Citizenship Referendum of 2004.

Thus one can hardly be surprised that much of this muddle headed reactionary nonsense has seeped down to the street; these days it is not uncommon to hear racism dressed up as caring words for one's country's future and that of its people. Nevermind that the vast majority of those politicians who proclaim the country's health and education system are becoming clogged up due to the influx of workshy immigrants, whose only purpose in being here is to milk the welfare benefits system, are the very same people who whilst in government office cut the budgets for Healthcare, Education and Welfare benefits, or failed to provide adequate funding for the said same.

Rarely are newcomers portrayed in the media in a sympathetic manner, and they are never placed in their historical context; instead all we get is the downside of immigration: these newcomers are accused of coming into the country so they can sponge off the state, or they overstretch the health services and education system. They drive down wages due to being willing to work for less than locals; nevermind it is exploitative employers and the failure of government's departments to act against them which allows the latter to happen, instead all the blame is heaped on the least powerful element in the employment triangle. Finally we have the doomsday theory of 'if this tide of immigrants is not curbed, the country will become flooded and over-run by them and there will be the very real possibility of the Irish ending up a minority in their own country by the year 2050'. Such anti-immigrant nastiness was what movie maker Martin Scorsese partly based his film, ‘The Gangs of New York’ on, the difference being the newcomers were Irish and the nation was the USA.

If you think about the 'Irish a minority by 2050' claim, and give it a moments thought, you will see it is based on either racism or ignorance. For example, in Mr Mac Murchada's letter to the Daily Ireland, he claimed 50,000 immigrants came into Ireland in the year 2004. His statistics are highly inflated as he has totally excluded the fact 34% of newcomers into Ireland in 2004 were Irish nationals returning home, but no matter I will ignore this for the sake of my argument and take his statistics at face value.

If 50,000 newcomers came into Ireland to live in 2004, by the year 2050 in all probability they would have become Irish citizens, married, and had children who themselves would have done the same, making the offspring of the original 2004 immigrants and their children as Irish as the next person. Thus if you follow this logic through subsequent generations, even if the current levels of immigration was maintained —and no one is suggesting it should be— by 2050, only the most recent arrivals could be described as immigrants, the other newcomers having become assimilated into Irish society in a comparatively short period of time.

To understand how quickly this process of assimilation takes place, one only has to look across the Atlantic to the USA, where millions of Irish emigrants chose to make their home over the course of the past two hundred years. Some have kept and are proud of their Irish ancestry, whilst others have left it behind, however what both groups have in common is their first allegiance is to the Stars and Stripes and I'm certain the same will be true of those who have today chosen to make Ireland their home in the 21st century, albeit it will be the Irish Tricolour and the Republic of Ireland to which they give their allegiance.

Indeed, one of the more pathetic aspects of Michael Howard's little scam over immigration is the fact he himself is the son of Jewish immigrant to the UK. Yet within one generation he has become so much of an Englishman he has held senior political office and headed one of the UK’s major political parties. His parents were fortunate when they were fleeing fascism; the majority of English men and women were not as bigoted as their son appears to be.

Likewise I find something appalling about the Irish castigating immigrants, for few peoples have experienced the highs and lows of emigration more than they. Down the years they emigrated in their millions to the far corners of the globe, and for much the same reasons as those who come to there shores today, famine, economic and political necessity.

Instead of continuously harping on about the downside of immigration, perhaps we should look at the benefits accrued by the host country, Despite the old wive's tale doing the rounds, few people travel half way around the world to sit doing nothing, living on the pittance that is welfare benefits. Sure, they may need a helping hand at the beginning of their new life and thankfully the Irish are known for their generosity and hospitality. Once the newcomers find work they are soon on their feet and contributing to the national exchequer via taxation, which is something that cannot be minimised, as with the stabilisation of the birthrate and an ever-ageing population due to improvements in health care, it is imperative the tax base is widened in all Western European countries if they are to provide decent pensions and better healthcare for all of their people. This can only be done by one of two methods, raising taxation or increasing the number of people who pay tax. The former is a non-starter as none of the main parties, bar Sinn Fein and the Greens, will go down this road. Thus increasing the number of tax-payers is the only viable option; as the birthrate is static, immigration is the only way to widen the tax base and thus maintain and improve pensions, health care, education, etc. Thus, this is the perfect time to allow immigrants to enter in a controlled manner.

For those who fear overcrowding it is worth remembering in 1845 Ireland's population was over eight million yet by 1914 this had fallen to approx. five million. Today it hovers around the 5.5 million mark for the island of Ireland as a whole: 4 million in the republic and 1.5 in Northern Ireland. The most recent EU survey projected the population would rise, if current trends continue, to 5.5 million in the Republic by 2050. If true, this would mean the population on the island as a whole would still not have returned to the level of 1845.

However, it is vital governments do not just continue to allow immigrants into the country without explaining the pros and cons and hope no one notices their arrival, as reactionary political elements will continue to make capital out of people's unnecessary fears and ignorance on this subject. People have a right to be told why it is beneficial to them and their nation to allow newcomers into their homeland. I'm confident if governments do this, the overwhelming majority will see the vitality and benefits new immigrants bring to the nation and will truly begin to give them a welcome on the hillside.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

24 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Robert McCartney's family appeal to Sinn Fein
McCartney Family

Kevin Cunningham

'Dreary Ireland'
Anthony McIntyre

An Ireland of Welcomes Should Be
Mick Hall

Brian Mór

A Spartan's Story
Anthony McIntyre

* Election Coverage *

Martin Cunningham, Newry and Mourne District Council

19 April 2005

Another Historic Statement, Again
Anthony McIntyre

Two Heads Better Than One?
Brian Mór

Hope for A Democractic Avenue, Not a Dead End Street
Mick Hall

Irish American Support
Niall Fennessy

Street Fighting Man
Fred A Wilcox

Revolutionaries Have Set Up Dictatorship
Margaret Quinn

The Murder of Robert McCartney
Conor Horan

The Missing Ingredient
Ruairi O’Driscoll

Re-orienting perspectives: Bob Quinn's The Atlantean Irish
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Politics of Peace at an Impasse
David Adams

* Election Coverage *

Independent Irish Republicans Standing in All 6 Counties
Sean Mc Aughey

John Coulter

Gary Donnelly, Cityside Ward, Derry City Council

Aine Gribbon, Antrim Town Council

Patricia (Trish) Murray, Antrim Town Council

The Letters page has been updated.



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