Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with Aine Ni Chonaill

Aine Ni ChonaillWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Taking my questions this week is Immigration Control Platform spokesperson Aine Ni Chonaill.

I'd like to thank Ms Ni Chonaill for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

You are a spokesperson for the Immigration Control Platform (ICP). Tell us a bit about the ICP and what its aims and objectives are.

ICP was set up in January 1998. It is an Irish NGO; a single issue organisation. We absolutely oppose all illegal immigration, visa abuse and asylum abuse. We also do not wish to see legal immigration to an excessive degree.

The ICP's website states it wishes to "address the phenomenon of immigration to Ireland and to lobby Government for a tight immigration policy". Why is this necessary in your view?

It is necessary because the broader European experience and recent Irish experience shows that the West, including Ireland now, is under huge migratory pressure and has been for some time. Governments face a hugely difficult task in controlling immigration and they demonstrably lack the very strong political will required to deal with it. The determination of the migrant to enter is massively stronger than the will of governments and administrations to keep them out.

As if that were not enough, the immigration enthusiasts, practising their new ideology of multiculturalism, bring constant pressure on government for amnesties, lax regimes etc. They are backed by the churches and most of the media.

Hence the need for an organisation such as our own to voice what we firmly believe is the wish of the majority of people. These wishes are ignored right across Europe. Governments everywhere fail to implement the wish of their electorate to control immigration. Their response, then, is to try to "persuade" or socially engineer their population to accept it. Multiculturalism, which is basically code for mass immigration has been hugely problematic elsewhere. We don’t wish to see the same fate befall our own country and we are heading down that road at a rate of knots.

To me, democracy is fundamental to the whole issue. Policy is supposed to represent the wish of the electorate but immigration is the only policy on which people’s wishes are ignored, even though it is the one whose results can never be reversed. Democracy and immigration control go together.

The ICP has had to fight accusations that it is racist. What would you to say to anyone who feels the organisation promotes a racist message?

We don’t so much fight it as scorn it. Anyone who equates immigration control with racism is beyond reason. Remember that the usual nutters classified the citizenship referendum as racist. 80% of the voters voted for it.

Ireland is a republic. Some would say it is incumbent upon Ireland therefore to open up its borders and regard immigrants as equals. What are your thoughts on that?

A republic is, first and foremost, a democracy. Democracies are supposed to be run according to the wishes of the citizens. Nowhere do people want to "open up the borders" if by that you mean massive, uncontrolled immigration. As for regarding immigrants as equals, of course legal, invited immigrants are our equals. Illegal immigrants are also your equal in the sense that "all men are equal" but that is no reason not to send them packing.

If you could change three things about Irish society, what would you change and why?

As spokesperson for a single issue organisation I can’t answer this.

The number of immigrants coming in to Ireland is obviously at unprecedented levels. How do you feel this will impact on Irish culture?

I never talk about culture or identity. Irish culture is whatever Irish people do between the time they get up and the time they go to bed.

What are your thoughts on the European Union? Do you think the levels of immigration are a result of the Irish government giving in to the wishes of Brussels?

Generally, up to this, our immigration is not dictated by Brussels. For example, we had the same choice as other EU countries to have restrictions on Eastern Europeans for seven years. We chose not to. The daftness which is the asylum system is something we had signed up to before we ever joined the EU, although we did not at the time (1954) foresee the subsequent problems. Brussels did not force us to give any of the work permits or work visas we gave over the past years. The massive Chinese immigration we have has nothing to do with Brussels.

Having said that, Brussels remains a big danger in the area of immigration. There is an ongoing effort to have a common asylum policy and a common immigration policy and we are opposed to both moves. They have done more so far on asylum than on immigration. We are firm that Ireland should maintain the fullest sovereignty over these matters. There are co-operative control measures and sharing of information such as Eurodac with which we agree, but only that type of co-operation. Eurodac is a system of shared fingerprint information which means that an asylum-seeker who has been rejected in Britain say, and turns up in Ireland, can be identified as an "asylum-shopper" and sent back to Britain or vice versa.

We opposed the Nice Treaty because it moved towards a common asylum and immigration policy and the European Constitution because it sought to tie us constitutionally to the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees which we, in common with many people worldwide, see as the basis of an outmoded system. We want to see a system based more on the resettlement programme of U.N.H.C.R.

Under the Good Friday Agreement it states that a United Ireland can only happen if a majority on both sides of the island votes for it. It seems clear though that immigrants in Ireland could play a significant role in such a vote. What are your thoughts on that?

I really don’t see that it is possible to say anything meaningful about it at this point. Only those with citizenship could vote on it (here at any rate). Some might not care. Others would be swayed by various arguments at the time. For example, if it were argued that there would be an economic cost, certain of them might be opposed. Different groups could have different views. There is no way of knowing how it would break down.

The ICP has been vocal about ensuring a tighter immigration policy for the country. Define how tight this policy should be.

ICP has never voted a policy on precise numbers but I feel confident our membership would say we have already gone too far. Let’s put it like this; if this year you want to bring in 500 foreign IT specialists and 500 foreign health professionals, then chuck out 500 failed Nigerian asylum applicants and 500 of the illegal Chinese to make room for them.

Other countries have suffered race problems in recent times. There were race riots in France not too long ago. Do you think Ireland is heading down a similar path if the levels of immigration continue?

Of course we are going to have similar problems if the levels of immigration continue. Why would it be different in Ireland to any of the other European countries where "multiculturalism", a.k.a. mass immigration, has caused such problems? It might or might not take the form of riots. It might be a sullen, resentful, angry indigenous population which sees itself reduced to one of many patches on a patchwork quilt instead of a people with its own country.

What will Ireland be like twenty years from now?

That depends on us and those we elect. Now, why do I find that a depressing thought…

There's an argument that the Irish for a long time went to other countries in search of employment and a new life and that now it's our turn to provide for other nationalities. What would be your thoughts on that view?

This line of thinking is a uniquely Irish insanity. No other people in Europe talks like this. One hears "the Irish went all over the world". They didn’t actually. Is there a major Irish demographic in Nigeria, Romania or China? They went essentially to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, "the countries of permanent settlement" as they are known; as did people from all over Europe. These countries were treated as "empty" lands to be filled up from abroad. A great deal of our emigration was to Britain, which all through the 19th century and part of the 20th century was not emigration at all but migration within the state (UK) and subsequently Britain chose to have a common travel and residential area between us.

Look at the masses who emigrated from Southern Italy. Do the Italians go around saying "we Italians should open our borders"? I think not. A lot of Irish people don’t realise that Germans were great emigrants. Between 1850 and 1900 they were never less than a quarter of all emigrants to the US. Could you imagine telling a German that Germany therefore owes it to the world to open up her borders? Frankly, I’d really like to be present for that!

The only other European country with as big an emigrant history as ours is Norway. I holidayed there in summer of 2002. Poor Norway was dealing with an asylum assault like our own and many of them were deeply unhappy about it. I asked our guide, a well-informed third-level lecturer, if he heard in Norway a similar line to the one you mentioned above. He seemed astonished by it and said "No one in Norway says that". This is a daftness unique to us. What do we owe the Nigerians? Nothing. The Romanians? Nothing. The Chinese? Nothing. We owe them one thing only – to respect their sovereignty and not breach their borders. A pity they don’t show us that respect.

Perhaps the strongest argument for continued immigration is the economic argument. Why limit the levels of immigration when it seems to be benefiting our economy? Ireland, Sweden and the UK opened their borders to the ten new member states for example and all seem to be doing rather well from it.

This is very glib and very questionable. The fact that it benefits an employer does not mean that it benefits the country as a whole. Hypothetically, you could double your population and you would expect to roughly double the size of the national cake but you would have twice as many people eating into it. It need not make you or your blogreaders one cent better off. It may just add hours to your commute, add to housing pressure etc.

Also, if employers bring in low-paid immigrants the tax-payers will have to pick up the slack with subsidised housing, medical cards, family income supplement etc.

To quote from a recent report from the National Economic and Social Council "immigration tends to have a positive effect on total GNP, but its effects on GNP per head is uncertain." our aim was always to see full employment for our own people. Where is the point in creating jobs here for foreigners? Those jobs should be where the workers are. Again, NESC says we should modify our goal "to focus more on the overall employment rate and the employability of individuals rather than the absolute level of job creation".

What will the legacy of immigration be for Ireland?

It depends how far it goes. Immigration is like most things in life. A little is fine; a lot is problematic.

Next week, Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte takes my questions. Be sure to keep clicking in to United Irelander for a firsthand look at Irish political life.

Previous interviews can be read here.


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