Ireland’s immigration plans are a crackdown by any other name

Plans to shorten processing times and adding Botswana and Algeria to safe countries list may lead to removal of 5,000 people from State

If there were any lingering doubts that Government was engaging in a clear crackdown on new asylum arrivals, those doubts have now been firmly dispelled.

We report today that plans to shorten processing times and add Botswana and Algeria to the list of safe countries of origin could, under estimates outlined by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, lead to a potential removal of up to 5,000 people from the State.

It has also emerged that the Government considered adding Nigeria and Pakistan to the list of safe countries, but in the end concluded that they did not meet all the criteria.

“We’re trying to take people out of the system here that should not be in it, that are taking up space for those who genuinely need protection,” McEntee said. Not only will unsuccessful asylum seekers be asked to leave, but they very well might be put a plane chartered by McEntee’s department.


Conor Gallagher reports that the Government is to start running regular charter flights dedicated to deporting people who have failed in their asylum applications.

The first flights, which would use private aircraft hired by the Department of Justice, are expected to happen later this year.

As astutely noted by Gallagher, “The move comes as the Government attempts to present a tougher image on immigration in advance of local and European elections in June. Immigration tops the list of issues getting the attention of voters in the past month, according to public sentiment tracking by Ipsos B&A.

The issue of immigration also led to some “I told you so” moments in the Dáil last night. As Sarah Burns reports, Fianna Fáil backbenchers had plenty to say on the topic. Carlow Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said if the Government had listened to the “many backbenchers” who raised the issue “over and over again at our parliamentary party meetings, we would not be here today”.

Cork East TD James O’Connor said the level of violence and intimidation and arson attacks should be a “flashing red light” within the Cabinet room. The same issue cropped up at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting where Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told his TDs and Senators that Garda investigations into recent arson attacks at proposed accommodation centres and other buildings are ongoing - but that investigating gardaí anticipate arrests soon.

Immigration was a hot topic in the committee rooms, too.

As Cormac McQuinn reports, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman told the Committee on Children that almost €1.9 billion is expected to be spent by the Department of Integration on accommodation and other supports for Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers in 2024.

Taoiseach heads to Brussels for EU Council summit

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will travel to Brussels this evening as European leaders make another push to agree a €50 billion support package for Ukraine. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán blocked all compromises in December, despite earlier that day stepping out of the room for a key vote which allowed Ukraine accession talks to begin. There are increasing signs that European leaders are growing weary with Orbán’s tactics — with the Financial Times even reporting earlier this week that the EU could “explicitly target Hungary’s economic weaknesses, imperil its currency and drive a collapse in investor confidence in a bid to hurt ‘jobs and growth’ if Budapest refuses to lift its veto against the aid to Kyiv.” It’s shaping up to be another dramatic one. Follow for all updates.

Irish decision on whether to back genocide case against Israel is ‘months away’

Sarah Burns and Cormac McQuinn report on a motion brought by Sinn Féin in the Dáil last night which called on the Government to join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin dismissed the Opposition calls and said: “We will consider whether to make an intervention in the right way and at the right time”.

Previously Sinn Féin’s spokesman on foreign affairs Matt Carthy said a notification to the International Court of Justice that Ireland intended to join proceedings would send “a huge message to the world”.

At this stage, it looks as thought it will be the summer time before South Africa files a substantive case. A decision on whether or not Ireland will intervene is unlikely to be made before South Africa has submitted a document called a memorial which sets out its substantial case in detail, so this issue looks set to rumble on for some time yet.

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Dáil Éireann

Proceedings kick off with Topical Issues at 9.10am, followed by Private Members’ Business where People Before Profit-Solidarity will bring a Bill to decriminalise small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

Leaders’ Questions are up at noon and this will be followed by questions on policy or legislation.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will take questions at 1.05pm.

Government Business is up shortly after 2pm, with the Research and Innovation Bill listed, as well as the Social Welfare and Civil Law. After 6pm, the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill 2023 is up.

The Dáil adjourns just after 11.15pm.

Read the full schedule here.


Commencement Matters are up at 10.30am followed by the Order of Business an hour later. At 12.45pm, Senators will debate the Digital Services Bill 2023. At 3pm, Senators will debate to the Criminal Justice Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity Bill 2023.

The Bill will, for the first time, create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity.

Private Members’ Business is up at 5pm with a motion regarding respite care for family carers and services for children with disabilities. This will be brought by Fine Gael Senators before the Seanad adjourns at 7pm.

Read a more detailed schedule here.


By contrast, it will be a relatively quiet day in the committee rooms.

At 9.30am, the Select Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment will discuss the revised estimates — or budget — with Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney. It’s the same situation with the Select Committee on Health at the same time, except of course they’ll be hearing from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on his budgets.

At the same time; the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development will hold pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Social Welfare (Pay-Related Social Insurance and Jobseeker’s Pay-Related Benefit Provisions) Bill 2024. Under the new Government plans outlined in this legislation, people with longer working histories will get enchanted jobseekers payments if they lose their job.

There would be a top rate of a maximum of €450, or 60 per cent of your prior income, for people who have made at least five years PRSI contributions. The €450 rate would be paid for the first three months.

Then there would be a second rate of a maximum of €375, or 55 per cent of your prior income. This will be paid for the following three months. Finally, there is a third rate of a maximum of €300, or 50 per cent of your prior income for the final three months.

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