Ducking the debate on asylum policy

Patronising people or smearing them as political extremists is dangerous

Sir, – In my view, a major mistake is being made by political parties in describing those who take part in protests as either belonging to the “far right” or being unduly influenced by those with extreme views. Citizens are perfectly entitled to protest the actions of the State if they believe those actions damage their community. Accordingly, patronising people as being too dim to come to a rational opinion all by themselves, or smearing them as political extremists, will lead to precisely the opposite outcome than that intended. People who feel that mainstream political parties cannot accommodate their reasonably held views will gravitate to those parties who will express those views. Brexit was a political manifestation of this phenomenon. Even Sweden, the exemplar of western liberalism, has had its politics transformed because much of its electorate got tired of being taken for granted in relation to its immigration policies. Ireland has thankfully avoided extremist political parties, but there are very worrying signs that this is happening due to the entire body politic ducking any serious debate on asylum or immigration since 2002.

It needs to be borne in mind that asylum and immigration policy is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice while accommodation policy is now the responsibility of the Minister for Children, the latter grabbing that responsibility in order to bring an end to direct provision (and presumably bask forever thereafter in a liberal glow). The Department of Children, on the other hand, does not have to worry its head about border controls or deportations or other messy areas that are not PR friendly. This is an organisational disaster and has played no small part in creating the current shambles that we are in. Asylum accommodation should attach to that department that controls the immigration system.

In conclusion, the public will respond to immigration policies that it believes are fair and proportionate. The Ukrainians are being welcomed because their cause is manifestly just. But the public increasingly see the huge influx in asylum seekers from countries where there is no war or civil unrest – and the plain abuse of the travel document system – as being unfair and disproportionate. If politicians across the political spectrum recognise this and agree to measures which buttress asylum and immigration controls , especially the removal of failed asylum seekers, then public disquiet will lessen. If not, I fear that the country is in for major social upheaval in the coming months. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 13.