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Has the shadow of anti-immigrant politics reached Ireland?

Inside Politics: Proposed direct provision overhaul, Ross’s points and the farmers’ protest

Independent TD Noel Grealish arrives at Leinster House. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

There has been a shadow over politics in Europe and Britain over the past few years.

Broadly speaking it is immigration with more than a tinge of racism. This is what Brexit is about if you boil it down to its essence.

It is behind the rise of populist right-leaning xenophobic parties in Europe. It is not just on the right but also on the left, as we have seen with the charges of anti-Semitism laid against the Labour Party on Tuesday.

Besides the occasional bark and dog-whistle, it has not been of the same order in Ireland.


But lately, local campaigns against direct provision centres, as well as the outbursts of Verona Murphy and Noel Grealish, have raised the possibility that it may become a phenomenon here.

There has been a strong response to this from the political establishment (and I mean that in its widest sense).

On Tuesday, two all-party Oireachtas committees responded strongly to the anti-immigrant tropes of recent weeks. In its periodic report, the Public Accounts Committee challenged the notion of continuing dramatic increases in asylum seekers, saying the numbers have risen but have also fluctuated up and down.

And now Jennifer Bray has a story about a report from the Justice Committee which has concluded that the direct provision system in Ireland is "flawed" and should either be replaced or subjected to a "root and branch review".

The yet-to-be-published report recommends a legal requirement be placed on local authorities to develop integration strategies for asylum seekers; that a new allowance be introduced for parents in the system; that a new oversight body be established for inspections; and that consideration be given to removing the nine-month waiting period for work.

It will call on the Government to “move away” from the current reliance on commercial companies to provide accommodation.

The report also calls for an inspectorate to carry out regular and unannounced monitoring and inspections.

Denis Staunton’s UK election diary

It’s 15 days to Election Day. This morning’s front pages make dismal reading for Jeremy Corbyn, as almost every paper leads with his disastrous BBC interview last night with Andrew Neil.

Those most ideologically hostile to Labour are as you might expect the most unsparing, with the Daily Mail's headline "Torn Apart" taking up most of its front page, the Express asking "Has Corbyn's horror show gifted Boris the keys to No 10?" and the Sun describing the interview as "shameful". Read more here.

Has Ross pulled a fast one on rural Ireland?

At a roadside in Mayo (must be the N5) Sergeant Ring takes out the hair dryer and points it in the direction of Shane Ross, a Minister who’s in too much a hurry and needs to be sanctioned.

Well, Ross got his graduated speeding points through Cabinet yesterday and the much-anticipated rural rebellion did not materialise.

Still, all of the shouting had been done in the months and weeks before. Michael Ring in particular had raised objections about some of the provisions, including one that required the driver to produce a licence on demand, and another that did not differentiate between speeding on a motorway and in a built-up area.

There is no guarantee that what was agreed on Tuesday will become law, given there is only six months of life left in this Government. Besides, it is not on the priority list of legislation.

But no matter which way you look at it, it is a win for Ross. As Fiach Kelly reports, there was some blowback and discord.

Ring told colleagues that Ross is disliked in rural Ireland. Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath accused Fine Gael of trying to stab Ross in the back.

At the weekly pre-Cabinet meeting of Fine Gael ministers, Ring claimed that those in rural Ireland who get their licence taken off them were at a disadvantage to those in urban areas who could rely on public transport.

Animated Farm

Whatever you say about the farming community, they know how to stage a protest. Farmers unhappy against beef prices mounted a tractor blockade in Dublin on Tuesday that effectively shut down the centre of the city. There was gridlock in the city centre for two hours.

And it wasn’t a flash in the pan. Many of the farmers hunkered in for the night on Stephen’s Green with the intention of doing it all over again on Wednesday.

They demanded to meet Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and handed in a letter to the department, signed “farmers of Ireland”. While no farm organisation is involved, these flying pickets are highly-organised.

They produced a list of eight demands, including: that the beef task force be set up; a regulator “to protect farmers’ interests” be appointed; and the “root and branch reform” of all State agencies connected with the agriculture sector, including Teagasc and Bord Bia.

You can read our report on the protests here.

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Jennifer O'Connell is on the campaign trail for the British general election. On Wednesday, she's in the West Midlands and Sedgely, once a Labour heartland, but a Leave constituency now veering towards Tories.

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Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy has been the worst attender in the Dáil over the past two years. The reason is that he has moved his career to Brussels. Now he is about to make the break permanent by resigning from the Dáil to take up a plum job with the EU Commission.

Marie O'Halloran reports that Fianna Fáil has derided Limerick Minister Patrick O'Donovan's alleged suggestion that RTÉ could start broadcasting death notices. He has denied he made any such call.

Pat Leahy and I write about the controversy over the €1 million printer that could not fit into its designated building.



Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed is taking the priority questions. He should be heard just above the din of revving tractors, from farmers who have been blockading Leinster House for the past 24 hours.

Leaders’ Questions is at 12pm.

Daragh O’Brien of Fianna Fáil is bring a private members Bill – yet another initiative aimed at helping first-time buyers get on the property ladder. Is this one any better than previous efforts? Hard to tell.


The one-man show (plus a Greek chorus) that is Michael McDowell continues to talk the clock down on the Judicial Appointments Bill, frustrating the ambitions of Shane Ross. Only six months left to debate the finer points of the Bill.

There are also statements in relation to accommodation for application for international protection. We don’t expect any Noel Grealish-type contributions in the Upper House.


The Committee on Housing is looking at pay for county councillors. It’s not very high, but nothing browns the public off more than politicians getting more money.

The Health Committee is examining access to contraception.

The Microbeads (Prohibition) Bill 2019 has reached committee stage where it will be guided by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

The Committee on Transport is looking at the issues raised by the emergence of personal powered transportation: e-scooters to you and me.

The Committee on Climate Change is looking at how to develop a sustainable transport system in Ireland.

Among the speakers is Prof Edgar Morgenroth from DCU.