Ireland needs to talk about immigration
The elites have maintained a conspiracy of silence following the Dublin knife attack.
The knife attack on three primary-school children and a school-care assistant in Dublin last week shocked Ireland. It happened in broad daylight on Parnell Square, close to Dublin’s busiest streets. And it was witnessed by tourists, Dubliners and thousands of CCTV cameras
Yet, in the immediate aftermath, the Irish media seemed intent on shrouding the incident in mystery. The Irish Times described the suspect merely as ‘a naturalised Irish citizen, who has lived here for 20 years’. Many other outlets followed suit. What they steadfastly refused to say was that the suspect was an Algerian-born Irish citizen.
The reason for the media’s resort to euphemism and vague language was obvious enough. They were worried that stating the truth about the suspect would prompt an upsurge of anti-immigrant prejudice.
The subsequent riot in Dublin city centre, in which a Luas tram was torched and shops were looted, provided the Irish media and political classes with an ideal opportunity to avoid talking about the attack at all. It was a chance to complain instead about far-right thugs and looters. And they seized it.
Pundits and broadcasters have since adopted a ‘nothing to see here’ approach to the knife attack, while furiously condemning the riots as a far-right provocation. ‘Don’t look at the maniac who attacked the children. Don’t look at the goons who want to surf on his grotesque madness’, wrote Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole.
Most Irish people have no sympathy with the rioters, nor do they have any truck with far-right agitators blaming immigrants for all of society’s ills. But many will also have noted that the media and political classes have found more energy to handwring over the far right, than they have over a brutal knife attack on small children.
The elites’ unwillingness to talk about what happened on Parnell Square reveals their contemptuous view of the Irish people. They conceive of them as an irrational, prejudiced mass. They worry that just mentioning the identity of the suspect will turn people into anti-immigrant louts. That they will, in the words of the Gardai, fall prey to a ‘lunatic far-right faction’.
Unfortunately, this elite conspiracy of silence is nothing new when it comes to immigration. When 23-year-old Ashling Murphy was brutally murdered, many pundits on and offline blamed Ireland’s sexist culture for supposedly legitimising violence against women. When it eventually emerged that the prime suspect was a Slovakian called Jozef Puska, the condemnation of a ‘culture of misogyny’ dried up overnight.
Many commentators and reporters were so nervous about stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment that they even refrained from quoting Murphy’s boyfriend’s press statement – because it drew attention to Puska’s background as someone who came to Ireland and ‘never [held] down a legitimate job, and never once [contributed] to society in any way, shape or form’.
It’s not just brutal murders by migrants that are greeted with selective media silence. Media and politicians seem keen to dampen down any debate over immigration, especially at a time when rows over housing and resources being allocated to migrants at the expense of local residents are really starting to fester.
This omerta is helping no one. As Brendan O’Neill wrote in spiked last week, Ireland’s immigration trends are extraordinary – according to the 2022 census, 20 per cent of Ireland’s current population was born outside of Ireland. Such a seismic demographic shift would create issues in any society. But instead of listening to the concerns being voiced in town halls and pubs, the Irish elites close their ears.
Worse still, they want to stop people from expressing their concerns. Hence, the government is now using the Dublin riots to push through its new hate-crime legislation. Ireland’s Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, has promised that the law will be on the statute books ‘very quickly, before Christmas’. The punitive law will criminalise language that could be perceived by minorities as hateful, regardless of intent or context.
This legislation will not actually help those from migrant backgrounds. But it could well clamp down on citizens’ ability to discuss the issues that matter to them. If the Irish elites think censorship will make their problems go away, they are sorely mistaken.
Ella Whelan is the author of The Case For Women’s Freedom, the latest in the Academy of Ideas’ radical pamphleteering series, Letters on Liberty.
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