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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Serious Debate on Immigration Needed

It is high time we had a serious adult conversation about immigration in this country. By serious, I mean both appreciating the gravity of the situation and seriously looking for a solution as a result of that. By adult, I mean a conversation devoid of name-calling or labelling other speakers to allow people to dismiss their points out of hand, rather than engaging and addressing valid concerns. Up until now, perhaps we have had time to indulge that particular parliamentary laziness but that time has passed. It is time to sit down, acknowledge the problems and begin to hash out some solutions. Us Irish are a placid bunch. It takes a lot to get us riled up. Successive Governments have relied on this and implemented policies that the citizens of other countries would not stand for, but we are getting there. We do not do French-style protests but we did with the water charges and it worked. We are heading there now again with immigration.

I am sure many nicely-bound roadmaps and strategy documents exist laying out the Government's approach to inward migration into this country but what it looks like on the ground is this: the Government will not refuse migrants for fear of being called racist, xenophobic or uncaring. Having nowhere to adequately house these migrants, the Government must spend millions of euro renting hotels and converting office blocks in the greater Dublin area and surrounding counties, almost exclusively in areas that have historically been working class and-or commuter or satellite towns. Having secured such premises, the Government rents private buses to transfer large crowds of migrants into these areas.

If the locals are lucky, they may get some warning. The migrants are provided with a few paltry meals per day and left to their own devices. It seems in many cases they are left to wander around the towns and engage in antisocial behaviour such as fighting or harassment. Does that sound like caring for anyone? It does not benefit the locals and it does not sound as though it benefits the migrants either.

The hashtag, #IrelandisFull, is trending on Twitter and will continue to do so. I saw one user clap back by saying our population density is much lower than that of the Netherlands. This would be the definitive rebuttal the person thought it was if we were taking in migrants to stand still in fields in order to achieve some arbitrary statistic of persons per square kilometre. However, we are not. We do not have the houses or healthcare system, which is looking for a €1.4 billion bailout. We do not have the transport infrastructure. This country, due to the policies of successive Governments, does not have the structural capacity to take in tens of thousands of migrants annually, yet this Government continues to do so. It is a policy devoid of reason and something has to change. There is still time to stop this from getting any worse. Let us start by having an adult conversation in this House with the relevant Ministers.

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