Immigration control is a “false conversation” that avoids the real issue, which “is about racism”, former MP for mid-Ulster and civil rights activist Bernadette McAliskey told a Dublin conference yesterday.
Speaking at the Marxism Festival 2013, hosted by the Socialist Workers Party in Dublin at the weekend, Ms McAliskey said a number of contradictions existed regarding immigration.
She said one example of such an "irrational conversation" was that, when we spoke about Irish people leaving to go to Australia or the US, the dynamic of the conversation was different to that when we talked about immigrants coming here.
"This is our narrative: that we leave our country and in leaving it we have enriched every society to which we have gone. So is the logic, therefore, not that the people coming to our society will bring that diversity, that skill, that new dynamic and perspective that would enrich our society?" she said.
“The best thing we could do on this very small island, North and South, is commit ourselves to end racism in this generation and if we did you would never hear immigration controls mentioned again.”
Ms McAliskey said racism needed to be challenged.
“It was the same when we had to take on anti-feminist, anti-women language, you have to challenge it wherever it is. You have to ask people to explain themselves.”
She said racism needed to be addressed through education in the same way as we educated children on bullying.
Anti-racist campaigner Mehmet Uludag said it was estimated migrants were contributing €3.7 billion annually to the Irish economy before the crash in 2008.