Communities Rising Up

For those of us who’ve been warning of the growing dangers associated with the policies of successive Irish Governments regarding mass migration and in particular mass immigration into Ireland, the year 2022 started with a nightmare. The declaration that the war between Russia and Ukraine must mean by obligation that Ireland would accept as many Ukrainians as arrived to this island — and take full responsibility for their material and other welfare — was quite an event. These people regardless of personal circumstances were to be immediately awarded full refugee status and no further questions asked of them except what did they want from us, to which the pre-set answer was always “Yes”.  Public opinion insofar as it was observable was certainly pro-Ukrainian, as regards the war itself, however much that was influenced by media propaganda. And certainly too there was, in principle, a general public support from Irish people that in terms of accepting refugees from war, we should “do our part”. Except that it was some considerable time before it became apparent what doing our part actually meant in practice. The hundreds became thousands and the thousands became tens of thousands and as we went into 2023 the tens seemed set to multiply into some hundreds of thousands.

An absurd decision by Minister Roderic O’Gorman to commit to ending Direct Provision, and to replacing it with “own door, own key” accommodation within four months of arrival, quadrupled the number of “asylum seekers” in the same period 2022, and despite the now obvious impossibility of keeping this pledge, the pledge itself continues to swell the numbers. Note these are not confirmed refugees in any sense, simply claimants and the Department itself estimates that 40% or more have destroyed their identity documents on route making the very basic requirement of accessing who they are and where they came from impossible, never mind the details of their claims in substance.

Against such a backdrop the notorious patience of the Irish people has finally begun to break down. At the most basic level there are over 11,000 officially homeless Irish natives not to mention an incalculable number who are paying exorbitant rents for barely adequate housing and the huge number of younger people, particularly couples, whose lives are effectively on hold as they remain in their parents’ homes well past the age which was the norm in Ireland less than a decade ago. And that was in a major recession. Now we are told GDP is growing at a whopping 12% annually but ordinary working people cannot afford the basics. The inevitable anger has begun to spill into the streets in the form of protest marches started primarily in Dublin but spreading now quickly countrywide. In truth no one really knows when or how these protests began and in that sense they may be regarded as the first truly spontaneous and organic grassroots rejection of government policy on any issue in this country. Definitely they are on the issue of mass migration.

But what is to become of protest against a government policy where not only the government parties but all the parties making up the opposition are adamant that the concerns of the protestors have no merit, where there are crude accusations of racism and/or stupidity and badly educated ignorance, and wilder still assertions of malign influences at home funded from abroad. Where there is no discussion or dialogue, and no acknowledged right for the opinions of local communities to be even accounted for within the decision making process on whether or how many or what type of migrant is to be placed in these communities. It is all very well to name parties or even individual politicians in chants, the response being “out, out, out” but after the next General Election there will still be 160 T.D.s and if they aren’t the current ones from the already established parties, those seats must still be filled with someone. If the protestors are determined that such parties and politicians are not to be re-elected then someone else must be elected instead. If there’s merely a change of names in each case by people who support the same policy then the policy will, indeed must, inevitably continue. Ending this or that individual’s political career won’t stop the opening of new direct provision centres or empty any of the ones already filled. It won’t halt the influx of migrants and most definitely will do nothing to reverse it. So why protest? To give a sense of having done something? To just vent?

The Purpose of Protest

The political class that created this crisis, while perhaps mildly discomfited and rather wishing the protests would just stop, won’t have their decisions changed by that. While certain individual T.D.s or parties might lose out to some extent it will only be to the gain of new T.D.s and other parties of exactly the same mindset who will gain. Boycotting elections, not voting at all makes no difference whatsoever. If only 10% of the population were to vote that would still amount to 100% of the electorate and the result as such would be as valid as any other. Elections aren’t about and never have been about the will of the people, at their very best they express the will of those who voted.

Which is why it is strange indeed to witness that a protest movement which emerged spontaneously, believes that it can achieve its goals by remaining spontaneous, and keeping the loosest of organisation. Especially organisation so loose that it is insisted that it be entirely “local” within the most narrow sense of the word, while the policies the protests ostensibly hope to change are imposed nationwide. Still more baffling is the belief that political decisions can be stopped or reversed by non-political means.

It may very well be the case that the very spontaneity of its origins have brought to the streets people of different political outlook or persuasion. It is ludicrous to suggest that they are Far Right for example, because if they were they would be immediately recognisable as such, and there would be no talk at all of being non-political or appearing to be non-political. There would already be a central national organisation to all of them. It would be a popular revolt with clear direction and meaning. And I don’t mind admitting to the wish that such was the case. But it’s not. However, the insistence that there be no politics involved at all is absurd. That to be effective in bringing people of different views — on issues other than concern about illegal migrants — can only be done by excluding people who have any other views, is a recipe not for unity but in the long run for the protests dissipating entirely. They will do so because the otherwise politically active cannot be involved. Spontaneity is all very well in the very short term but it is always the politically committed who keep things going even in the medium never mind the long term.

The National Party is regularly contacted by members and supporters who have participated in or helped organise these kinds of protests, usually in their local areas. And even people who have become members or supporters through the experience, having sought political expression for their growing concerns. Since Party membership on the back of these protests is increasing and the political constituency for nationalism growing, it is only natural that an organisation which has watered the seeds — having leafleted, campaigned, canvassed and postered on these issues sincerely and consistently — should visibly support the expression of changing public mood. In one sense, it is impossible not to. Because if Party representatives are not involved, Party members will be, and if Party members are not, the rumour-mill will claim they were. In a small country like Ireland you are always involved even when you think you aren’t.

The Solution

So then isn’t it equally obvious that the best way to prevent the ideological divisions among the protestors on various other issues from becoming destructive to the momentum of the protests themselves, is to allow everyone and indeed anyone who agrees on the central issue and is disciplined enough to keep the demonstrations peaceful to be there. Then everyone knows that their presence at a protest is not a declaration of being Right or Left but a very basic statement on the issue itself. And of course those political organisations and parties who attend and encourage their members and supporters to attend will try to recruit new members, supporters and potential voters. If their message is off-putting they will not succeed. But their presence alone will increase the numbers. Forces opposed to the protest’s aims will label them anyway and just think how much easier that labelling is to do when there is no visible sign of any political persuasions at what are obviously political events. Is there any label more deadly than the plausible accusation that everything is secretive? I cannot think of one, because secretive by nature means it could be anything.

If members and supporters of political parties are present with clearly identifiable signage then it is easy to see who they are, what they stand for, and the extent to which they represent the crowd as a whole. When a clearly known speaker takes the platform both the crowd and observers know their politics in the broader sense and rather than being able to manipulate, quite the opposite, they are limited to their power to openly persuade an audience with its eyes wide open.

And when the elections do come, those who attended the protests as well as the entire nation that observed the protests can make a clear judgement as to who deserves their vote based on what they equally clearly said and did. But if people take microphone in hand and under the anonymity of non-declaration simply whip up personal support, then people cannot know what they are voting for. And that leads back to the original and central point; if we want to stop the never ending influx of unvetted migrants, if we want to stop the planting of direct provision centres all over the country without taking any heed of the needs of the indigenous population we can all vote for the candidate of our choice in the fair knowledge of what that person or party believes about other things as well.

I certainly don’t want to vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion just because that candidate is anti-immigration. I have a right to know. I have a right in a functioning democracy, which Ireland claims to be, to get exactly what I vote for.

The reality here and I will state it as stark, is that the only people who want the protests against mass immigration and the placement of direct provision centres to be “non-political” are people who are either clueless as to how politics actually works, or those who would prefer we vote for them without knowing too much about them. Cluelessness will get us nowhere. You don’t even want to have to guess where secret agendas might take us all. We have enough of them from government already.


Justin Barrett
Ceannaire an Pháirtí Náisiúnta