“Migrant workers, like our ancestors, are heroes and heroines of the global economy,” so proselytised Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times in 2019. Of course we’ve heard this argument time and time again, O’Toole’s variation on it being only the most obscene. “The Irish went around the world and therefore they must accept the world.” This is what we are always told. This is one of the primary moral blackmails used to baton-charge Irish resistance to national dispossession.
Conservative responses to this argument are often quite superficial, amounting to variations on: “The Irish who went abroad weren’t given handouts.” This has never seemed to me a satisfactory retort. Especially so when you examine the real implications of what “Heroes and heroines of the global economy” implies. There is a far more comprehensive and coherent answer to the emigration canard.
First of all, mass-emigration of the Irish —that is to say the enforced exodus of our young people every twenty years or so —is not something anybody claims to be a positive achievement. In fact we all basically agree that it has been the overwhelming tragedy in Irish society over the past two-hundred years that so many of our people have been forced into exile.
In all cases, whether under the British or the Free State or the so-called Republic, mass-emigration has been to the benefit of vested interests, political and financial. In the 1840s, the literal culling of the Irish population by starvation and emigration removed a dangerous threat to Britain, conveniently justified in cold economic terms.
In later times, emigration was simply an economic expedient whereby Irish governments relied upon it as a stopgap or safety valve against economic mismanagement. Problems such as unemployment and the dangers of social unrest or revolution were to some extent exported. The Irish State never had to try too hard because it always had a way out. If all else failed, and it usually did, they could simply pawn off the youth of the Nation on whoever would take them.
Mass-emigration has been a cold economic expedient. The “heroes and heroines of the global economy” are the grist in the mill of hyper capitalism. When we come to discuss mass-immigration then, it must strike us immediately that we are not talking about a separate phenomenon but the same one. When people bring up mass-emigration to discredit us, they are not proving their own point, they are proving ours. We do not have to argue against them. We merely have to restate what they are actually saying. Mass-emigration and mass-immigration are indeed the same thing from different perspectives, and our emotional investment in one or the other should not obscure the fact that both are tools of international finance.
We did not need an exodus of Irish people in the 1840s or the 1950s or the 1980s or the 2010s, we needed a revolution. And it was the awareness of this that compelled the British and later the Irish State to tolerate and encourage each successive exodus.
What’s more, it was precisely the same mentality —that being economic expedience —that led the Irish government to accept immediate immigration from the accession states after 2004. It was pure greed and a desire for growth at all costs. Anything but create an Ireland for the Irish people to live in. Since the crash of 2008 it has become a two-flow system. We export, for instance, a shocking number of our front-line health workers, only to import cheaper replacements. Behind the moralising of the pro-migrant NGO industry, lies profit, greed and cynicism.
Whether mass-immigration or mass-emigration, it is the same process and it has the same result. That process is the uprooting of the Irish People and the result is dispossession. You cannot be against mass-emigration and be in favour of mass-immigration. In other words, you cannot decry the tragedy of endless exodus while you exalt in the wonders of endless inward migration. It is the same cold economic expedient from different ends.
The pro-migration NGOs are crucial to this economic model because they soften up the native population. In the same way, the Irish population was softened up to accept emigration as inevitable. When I went to a Citizens Information office during the last economic crash, the sole piece of advice I received was to leave the country. It reminds me of a speech given by Justin Barrett in Sligo some years ago in which he talked about the attitude of a Fine Gael politician to Irish emigration. “’This country’s finished’, he said. This was the late 1980s. ‘This country’s finished.’ The plan was that we would all leave. ‘The only hope for our young people is emigrating to Berlin, to Paris, to Rome, to Madrid…’ And then we’d be alright. That was the ruling ideology playing out.”
None of this information is new. It has simply become obscured by regime propaganda. As Justin Barrett pointed out during his Easter address, James Connolly recognised mass-immigration as a tool of the economic system to suppress the working classes. Not all that different from how it is used today. He had no moral qualms about addressing a genuine threat to Irish society. He was not worried about being called a racist or a bigot for doing so. By the same token, Irish nationalists of every ilk have recognised mass-emigration as a willed catastrophe. Always their call to Irish people was not to leave Ireland but to stay here and fight.
You cannot make the argument that “the Irish went around the world and therefore they must accept the world” without defending the indefensible. Cloaked in your “humanitarian” rhetoric is a defence of economic and social genocide on a global scale.
The people who support mass-immigration into Ireland on the basis of moralistic rhetoric are merely a people trafficking front for finance capitalism. Their refusal (at least publicly) to consider mass-immigration as an economic variable just like any other economic variable is the masking of their true intent. For if they admitted this, they would have to admit the implications. In the global economy, human beings are effectively treated as cattle. Whether they go out or come in, they are cattle all the same. The role of these NGO apparatchiks is to stand around with sally rods and make sure the mart gates stay open.
For too long the narrative of emigration has been used as an emotional trigger to soften Irish people up for national dispossession. It is sheer slave-mindedness to accept our own destruction on the grounds of past destructions. The genocide of the 1840s does not justify the destruction of the Irish Nation in 2021. Quite the opposite, it compels us to struggle against the very same forces that assailed us then. It clarifies our situation, it cleanses our moral outlook and it focuses our minds on the enemy at hand.
This article was submitted by a National Party member. If you would like to submit an article for publication on the National Party website, follow this link.