Immigrants more likely to be working and paying tax than average Irish person, says Varadkar

Taoiseach says immigrants ‘holding up’ public services and helping bring investment to Ireland through Facebook and Google

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said one in six people in Ireland was not born in the State and that was very high relative to other countries. Photograph: PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said one in six people in Ireland was not born in the State and that was very high relative to other countries. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Ireland has done much better in dealing with immigration and integration than other parts of the EU including Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, the Taoiseach has claimed.

Leo Varadkar said that while there were plenty of shortcomings including on direct provision, one in six people in Ireland was not born in the State and that was very high relative to other countries.

Ireland had done better than its European neighbours because immigration was diverse and not confined to immigrants coming from mainly one country, he said.

In fact, he said, immigrants were very well integrated into the labour market and were “more likely to be working than the average Irish person and more likely to be paying tax”.

He added: “I am pleased and proud that during the deep recession when there was very high unemployment and living standards were falling, people did not turn to anti-immigration or racist politics in the way they have in other countries when times have been tough.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked if the Taoiseach had spoken to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz about immigration at the last meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg.

Chancellor Kurz is viewed as close to eurosceptic EU governments and those opposed to an asylum seeker quota system.

Ms McDonald also criticised as “fairly disastrous” Ireland’s management of immigration.

“You only have to look to the system of direct provision to have proof positive that, far from managing migration, we are failing spectacularly in that regard,” she said.

But disagreeing with Ms McDonald, Mr Varadkar said that, despite the shortcomings of the direct provision system, “one in six people in Ireland was not born here, which is very high relative to that in other countries. It is higher than the figure in Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“We have done much better on integration than those countries, largely because immigration has been diverse, rather than migrants coming mainly from one country.”

Migrants were coming from all over the world, he added. “In addition, they are very well integrated into the labour market and, in fact, more likely to be working than the average Irish person and more likely to be paying tax than the average Irish person.

“In many areas in particular the health service, they are holding up public services as well as helping to bring investment from large companies to Ireland whether through Facebook, Google or others.”

He said a lot of good work was being done through the private sector to encourage migrants to become involved in the labour market and to overcome barriers they were facing.

However, he acknowledged that “it is never going to be perfect”. No country could say that in relation to migration and integration “but we’ve done pretty well relative to other states, given, in particular, that one in six people in Ireland was not born here”.