Heated Dáil debate on Rural Independent Group’s motion calling for cap on ‘influx of asylum seekers’

Dáil told that the total cost for people in IPAS accommodation between 2016 and 2022 is in excess of €1 billion

The Rural Independent Group was heavily criticised amid heated scenes in the Dáil on Wednesday after putting forward a motion urging the Government to change its “reckless immigration policy”.

The motion called for an immediate cap to be implemented “on the influx of asylum seekers” and sought an explanation as to “why unvetted single males, many from safe countries, are being accommodated” in centres in small rural locations without “any consultation whatsoever with local communities”.

The Rural Independent Group is made up of Mattie McGrath, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae, Carol Nolan, Richard O’Donoghue and Michael Collins.

Ms Nolan said the total cost of accommodating international protection or asylum applicants would increase by at least €500 million this year and had cost more than €1 billion between 2016 and last year.


“No state with a responsible policy towards expenditure can ignore such costs,” she said.

Labour’s justice spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the motion was “lowest common denominator politics from a lowest common denominator political group”. He said over the last month a member of the Rural Independent Group had linked immigration with criminality on five different occasions.

“There is nothing more despicable, more cowardly, more debased in Irish politics than the actions of the Rural Independents in relation to the immigration question,” he said.

Michael Healy Rae shouted across the chamber that the Labour TD was “a horrible little man” and that his party was “irrelevant”.

Independent TD Verona Murphy, who chaired the debate, threatened to temporarily suspend proceedings on a number of occasions.

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the Rural Independent Group was at pains to emphasise the riots last month were “nothing to do with the far-right” and were “whitewashing the role of the far-right”. He accused the Rural Independent Group of using “the language of the far-right” when talking about “unvetted single males”.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry referenced recent social media posts from MMA fighter Conor McGregor about demanding immigrants who commit crimes should be deported.

“If enforced in the United States by the way, this would lead to the deportation of McGregor himself,” he said. “In 2018 he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in New York after being filmed throwing a trolley through a window of a bus.”

Ms Nolan said record inward migration was taking place in the same context as record-breaking homelessness. “The cold hard reality of these statistics reveal that the breaking point has not just been reached but has been shattered,” she said.

The Laois-Offaly TD said the State had an obligation to assist where it can but it had to “unashamedly and without reservation prioritise the welfare of its own citizens”.

Noting cases where people have arrived in Ireland “having destroyed their documentation”, she said: “We can survive being a welcoming nation, but we cannot survive being taken for fools and having our generosity abused for another decade or more.”

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said no-one was trying to silence discussion around migration, despite claims from the Rural Independent Group. He said what they had presented added “nothing” to the discussion and that his officials were working in the confines of a system that was created “for a different era” in terms of catering for international protection applicants.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times