‘Common sense’ needed on number of asylum seekers entering Ireland, says Harris

Policy must combine compassion and ‘rules-based approach’, says Taoiseach, as current situation ‘not sustainable’

Ireland will remain compassionate while injecting “a degree of common sense” when it comes to the number of people who are entering this country seeking international protection, Taoiseach Simon Harris has said.

“Irish people are extraordinarily compassionate. As I travel around the country, I’m absolutely aware of the innate decency of Irish people and I think part of it is that there isn’t a family or a community that doesn’t know what it’s like to have experienced immigration over the years and over the generations,” he said.

“So it’s really important in this debate around migration, and these policy discussions around migration, that we never lose sight of basic humanity – that behind every number is a human being, in every tent is a person – a vulnerable person in many cases.

“But we do have to apply the rules as well and the reason we apply the rules is not because we wish to be nasty, is not because we wish to learn from other countries whom I wouldn’t frankly wish to learn from, who have adopted what I think to be more nasty policies towards migration.”


The Taoiseach was speaking in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, following the National Famine Commemoration, where he drew lines between the suffering of the Irish people during the Great Famine, and the current situation in Gaza.

The tragedy of the Great Famine was national, he said, but “the lessons are global” and compel us to “honour the memory of the dead by doing everything we can to prevent similar tragedies elsewhere”.

“We must apply the lessons of the Great Irish Famine to our world today, working to alleviate hunger and suffering wherever it exists, honouring human rights, international law, and calling out any and all breaches of it.”

He said there was a need for a “rules-based approach” in the migration system because the situation “is not sustainable”.

“We can’t constantly have this emergency response,” Mr Harris said.

Meanwhile, the issue of direct provision accommodation is also “an extraordinarily challenging situation”, he said, and the conversation “cannot begin and end with one in relation to accommodation”.

“We have legal obligations in relation to providing people with shelter. We take those legal obligations extremely seriously. We will see more capacity come on stream in the days ahead in relation to that, and that’s important,” the Taoiseach stressed.

But, he added, it is also important to look at all options at our disposal to move on from an emergency response to migration, which he says is “understandable but not sustainable”, to a situation that is more efficient.

“What we agreed at Cabinet last Tuesday was that, over the course of the next six weeks, a number of Ministers would review a range of supports in relation to people who were accessing international protection, and would look at how we operate compared to other European countries – are the areas in which we must do better or are there areas in which we’re out of line?

“There are around five or six thousand people who are in direct provision accommodation, who do have status. They’ve every right to be in this country. They’ve been assessed as having a right to remain here, they also have every right to work in this country, and many of them probably are, and many of them are probably contributing very importantly to our society.

“But there is a legitimate question as to how long you can remain in direct provision accommodation and there is also a legitimate question in relation to how you need to help pay your way in relation to that too. And that will be looked at as part of the review.”