mass migration ireland
How does a story about a small town, rejecting the creation of an asylum seeker accommodation centre in their locale, reflect a bigger a tale about immigration, demographics and political failure in Ireland, Europe and the |West as a whole?

This video discusses Ireland's rapidly changing society, the divide between the political classes and the public on the issue, and how all of that fits into the broader migrant and demographic crises in Europe.


Ireland: land of saints and scholars - also the land of dodgy politicians and EU lackeys. Tax haven for mega rich global tech corporations and beloved marketplace for big alcohol companies, who've successfully managed to equate the national addiction with the national identity.

Some of us also call it 'home'. A place inhabited by our ancestors for thousands of years, that through both hard times and good always inspired love and romanticism; and whose emigrant sons and daughters always kept in dear regard.
At least that's how it was thought of up until quite recently. Like many other western countries, Ireland has undergone quite a rapid transformation of its culture and morality, so much so that a person who left it only two or three decades ago would struggle to recognise parts of the society now. This can be argued as being for better or for worse, but I'll leave that aside for this video. Instead, this will be about another transformation that Ireland is arguably on the cusp of: a demographic transformation.

Let's start our story in a small town in the west of Ireland.
Earlier this year you may have heard about a news story from the small town of Lisdoonvarna. Famous for being the subject of a Christy Moore song, and frequently visited by tourists from around the world, Lisdoonvarna suddenly caught people's attention for another reason. The Irish government had entered into an agreement with local hotelier Marcus White to set up accommodation for 115 Asylum Seekers, who would all be moved into the town this year. As the town's permanent population numbers little more than 300, the proposal meant increasing the town's population by roughly a third, thereby substantially changing its demographics virtually over-night.

After the agreement was announced, residents of the town met up to discuss and vote on whether or not they would consent to the proposal. The town voted overwhelmingly to reject the Asylum centre, with 93% of the people at the meeting voting 'no' to it.

Marcus White - whose hotel is to be used to house the 115 Asylum Seekers - had initially agreed to meet with the citizens of the town, and to respect whatever decision they made about the plans he was party to that would transform their town. In the end, he chose not to listen to their wishes, but to go ahead with the centre. A little more than a week later the first Asylum Seekers were arriving in Lisdoonvarna.

After the controversy, officials moved to reassure locals and other people who had spoken up in support of them that the majority of asylum seekers being moved to the town would be women and families with young children. However, although these assurances may be true for Lisdoonvarna for now, it does not reflect the broader statistical picture for asylum seekers in Ireland. Data for all of the people being looked after by the government's asylum seeker holding programme, called 'direct provision', shows that more than a third are single adult men, more than half of applicants in December 2017 were single men, and that the vast majority of men in the system are between the ages of 18 and 45. Further, although most people probably think of Syrian families fleeing that country's war when they think of refugees, that too is not reflected in the statistics. Of asylum applicants recorded in 2017, only 18.6% were Syrian, and a majority, 63.2%, were adult men. Further, More than half of people in the system as a whole are from the continent of Africa, whilst the largest individual countries of origin are Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Only 8.2% are from Syria.

It's perhaps worth noting also that a large majority of asylum applications in Ireland are turned down. Notable also is that an investigation in 2012 revealed 2/3rds of failed asylum seekers were known to UK asylum authorities and had applied in both countries under different names. Nonetheless, asylum seekers remain in the Irish system for on average of 2 years, some times longer than 5 years.

Direct Provision has long been criticised for its inefficiency and for affording people too few liberties. Asylum Seekers in Ireland are housed collectively in centres, where their food is typically prepared for them, and a small financial allowance is afforded to them as well.

However, new proposals mean this system will soon be scrapped in favour of adopting the EU's own directives on the treatment of Asylum Seekers. The change will mean improvements in Asylum Seekers living conditions, an increase in the financial allowance afforded to them, the right to work, access to education, and more. At the core of the directive is the homogenisation of asylum conditions across EU member states, and commitments to, in principle, share the burden of responsibility for dealing with refugees between member states, and create living conditions that are comparable across all states - meaning, in principle at least, Ireland must now provide Asylum Seekers the same standard of living as they would receive in Germany, Sweden or other currently more generous countries in the EU. It's been argued that the restrictiveness of the previous system existed to discourage Asylum Seekers from coming to the Republic of Ireland and to keep their numbers relatively low. As the new changes come in, it's perhaps not unreasonable to imagine that the numbers of people will begin to increase. Figures for the last year, when reforms had already begun to be tentatively implemented, show that the numbers of asylum seekers had increased by 30%.

Another highly significant pending reform to the system is in the area of family reunification - i.e. the right of refugees to bring in members of their families. In 2016 legislation was actually changed to restrict what family members a person could bring into the country once they had been granted asylum. Currently though, on the back of pressure from NGOs and politicians, those restrictions are being overturned and a return to a more liberal approach to family reunification is very likely. According to the minister of state for justice, before the 2016 restrictions, the average number of family members applied for was 20, whilst the highest recorded was 70.

Whatever the system may mean for Asylum Seekers though, the asylum industry has certainly proved to be a profitable enterprise for the private companies that are tasked with accommodating them. Each year the Irish government pays out roughly 50 million euro to the various companies who own and operate the direct provision centres, with figures indicating some companies receiving between 50 and 90 million euro over a ten year period between 2000 and 2010.

As numbers of arrivals increase, more centres will need to be built, meaning new financial opportunities will open to these companies and others who wish to enter the burgeoning asylum industry.

This is where the likes of Marcus White, the hotelier in Lisdoonvarna, come into the picture. Marcus is the son of Fine Gael politician Jim White - Fine Gael for those watching from outside of Ireland are the country's current ruling political party and one of the two parties who've dominated politics in the state since Ireland was partitioned in the 1920s. In 2005 White and his hotel company were fined for illegally employing 14 migrants without work permits. At the time of the case, the hotel groups solicitor defensively remarked "there are dozens of migrant workers employed by the White Hotel Group, and they have a very good system in place for processing legitimate work permits".

Here then we see a politically connected individual, with a significant financial stake in an industry that has turned heavily towards the use of cheap migrant labour in recent times, and whose company even has a record of illegally employing migrants - who now is turning to a business area which involves drawing a lot of money from the state to house a particular kind of migrant. It's perhaps not an unfair assumption for someone to think Mr White, and others like him, are not involved in the business of housing Asylum Seekers out of any strong humanitarian considerations - even if these disruptive housing projects are sold to the public affected by them on the grounds that they must be charitable and humane.

But the asylum industry is not just profitable to those who house migrants. For instance, barristers whose job is to contest the lengthy and drawn-out asylum applications, and who (curiously) are often also quite well connected politically, are recorded as some of the highest paid legal counsel retained by the state.
Although, as we've seen, sudden changes in the application of asylum policy have the power to dramatically alter the demographics of small towns, the numbers of asylum seekers are actually only a small part of the bigger tale of recent migration to Ireland. Although the Lisdoonvarna case arguably only affects a small amount of people, the story is emblematic of a much larger pattern of government indifference, commercial opportunism and a growing sense of suspicion among native people about the impact of mass immigration.

According to the 2016 census, the Republic of Ireland is about 83% white Irish. It's hard to get historic data on ethnic trends in the country as censuses in the republic have only included a question about ethnicity since 2006. Nonetheless, it can be reasonably assumed based on Ireland's history, along with a glance at some secondary data, that the majority of Ireland's non-native population arrived in the country no earlier than the mid 90s or the early 2000s - at a time when Ireland's economic fortunes took a sharp upward turn. Recent OECD data shows that close to a 3rd of 15 year olds in the Republic of Ireland have an immigrant, non-Irish background. Also although the post-2008 economic downturn saw the numbers of immigrants arriving to the country decrease, post-2016 the numbers have begun to move upwards again.

So Ireland has moved from virtually homogeneous to rapidly more multicultural in the space of only 2 decades. For comparison, the UK, another country facing rapid demographic change, took about 50 years to make the same transformation - with the white British population recorded at about 85% in 2001, with mass immigration having started there around 1950.

The scale of this immigration has unsurprisingly put pressure on the availability of housing, healthcare and school places, as the country's infrastructure scrambles to catch up with the changes in its population.

Economically, the impact of mass immigration is a mixed affair.
It can be difficult to come by clear-cut data that relates specifically to Ireland, but what we do know is that immigrants have hitherto tended to have higher levels of education than natives, and were primarily attracted to Ireland for reasons of work. Evidence is mixed as to whether or not immigration depresses the wages of Irish natives, and it's clear that certain industries are more likely to have immigrants working in them than others - such as hospitality and retail. Also, whilst it's common to hear the benefits of Eastern European migration lauded, immigration from other parts of the world tends to present more problems. For example, a study in 2010 recorded Africans in Ireland were four times more likely to be unemployed than white Irish.

To make up for the apparent dearth of Irish data, media commenters and immigration advocates tend to cite information from the UK and elsewhere as to the economic benefits of immigration.

However, what's clear there is that not all immigration is equal, and its impact is not felt equally across society. For example in the UK where EU migration brings a net positive to the state purse, non-EU immigration is a net drain; and lower skilled jobs there are more likely to experience wage depression when the share of immigrant workers increases.

Wealthy businesses have long been in favour mass immigration; particularly in the agriculture, meat processing and hospitality industries, where immigrants are often recruited to fill low wage, low skill jobs. Given especially the political influence a number of these industries have in Ireland, it's perhaps not surprising to see some of the recent things at the policy level; for example the expansion of the right to work for Asylum Seekers, and the creation of hundreds of new work permits for non-EU workers in low skilled work.

However, the Irish public are not so universally enthusiastic about immigration, with many polls over the last decade showing skepticism or outright resistance to immigration from the public at large. One interesting poll in 2017 showed support for immigration and multiculturalism was higher among wealthier people, compared especially to low-income and unemployed people who expressed much more clear disapproval.

But mass migration is not just a matter of profit maximisation for businesses looking for cheap labour. It can also be useful to establishment politicians looking for a ready-made voter base.

Recently Fine Gael minister David Stanton along with politicians from a number of other major political parties attended a conference hosted by the rather official sounding NGO 'The Immigrant Council of Ireland'. The focus of this conference was the mobilisation of the immigrant vote in Irish elections. In exchange for platitudes about support for diversity and inclusion, Irish politicians are seemingly looking to court en masse the votes of the immigrant populations.

Arguably immigrants provide establishment politicians with a more pliant voter base, disrupting native voting patterns and typically voting for more of the immigration that politicians and businesses appear to want.

For instance, elsewhere in Europe, studies have shown recent immigrants tending to favour more immigration and more 'diversity' - i.e. more people like themselves being brought into the society.

However, immigrants are obviously not just passive clients for an aloof political class; they of course are real people with their own concerns, desires and values. Immigrant groups that exist in sufficient numbers in other western countries show, to varying degrees, in-group loyalty to their own community's interests, using their position to form voter interest blocs, leveraging their collective votes in one manner or another to affect elections and impress their values or culture onto the political landscape of the country that has received them. Thus, little by little, hopes of integration give way to patterns of balkanisation and combative tribal politics.

Whilst immigrant communities have not yet existed in sizeable enough numbers or concentration to swing elections in Ireland, clearly politicians are noticing the demographic trends and the likelihood of them playing a decisive part in the near future.

Regardless, the fractious nature of a multicultural society is already manifesting in Ireland - with areas such as Balbriggan and North Dublin city - once hailed as shining examples of a new 'diverse' Ireland, slowly descending into ethnic violence, resentment and crime patterns that are considered too potentially divisive to address honestly and fully.

And so we come to the point where predictions have to be made about the direction the country is heading in. Of course, no one has a crystal ball that can see into the future and any number of things could reverse recent trends. But if they are anything to go by, then the trends do indeed suggest Ireland will be a radically different place by the time most of the people watching this video enter the latter years of their life. In 2005 the then president of Dublin City University reportedly said in a speech, that the Irish could likely become a minority in Ireland by 2050: apparently citing unpublished and unnamed research from the UK. For the Professor, this development would clearly only be positive - boosting the economy and making the country more 'diverse'. Whether or not any monetary gain would really be worth the price of dispossession from one's own country, apparently didn't enter the Professor's considerations.

As incredible and alarmist as these claims seem, the idea of Ireland becoming majority non-Irish within this century are really not that far-fetched. Differences between average fertility rates of migrant groups and natives, coupled with the observably more youthful age profile of most migrant groups, the relatively small size of the country - especially when compared to the fast expanding populations of migrant-sending countries, and the apparent lack of any political will to reverse current trends are all indications that a momentous transformation is entirely probable.

But none of what is happening in Ireland is actually an isolated occurrence. From the exploitation of Asylum Seekers by profiteering housing providers, the tribalistic manipulating of elections, the failures to integrate newcomers, the disconnect between political elites and the general public on attitudes to immigration, and the looming demographic trends - all these things are happening across the western world. I've discussed this in greater detail in other videos, which I'd recommend you watch - but it suffices to say here that the broader political forces - from Europe to America and beyond are all enthusiastically in support of mass immigration, particularly from the 3rd world, to the west; ostensibly as a way to prop up the economies, pensions and welfare states of our aging, low fertility countries and to transform 'problematically homogeneous' nations into multi-ethnic, pluralist states.

As elsewhere, Ireland feels the influence of global political entities and multi-national NGOs to admit more people from outside of its borders, promoted on humanitarian grounds. But when viewed in the broader context of changing global demographics and the ideological commitment of immigration advocates to push for more immigration regardless of consequences, it's not surprising that many view these emotional appeals with cynicism.

Mass immigration to the west has been happening for several decades; but perhaps like never before these wider trends could very well affect the demographics of Ireland.

In the last few years an accelerated wave of migrants has been headed into Europe. In 2015 after German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled that her country would take in refugees without restriction, an unprecedented number of people began to arrive in the EU via the Mediterranean, across the Turkish border and elsewhere. Germany alone took in 1.1million asylum seekers in 2015, and another 400,000 in 2016. Since then Merkel and others have sought to rewrite EU asylum procedures and redistribute the migrants across the various member states - threatening that EU funding will be withdrawn from those countries that refuse. Nevertheless some EU countries have refused - for example Hungary and the Czech Republic - who say that acquiescence to such mass immigration will fundamentally transform their countries in a way that they are not prepared to accept. One country that has signalled a willingness to participate however is the Republic of Ireland. Despite having no obligation under EU law to take in a quota of migrants, Ireland agreed to take in an initial 4000 people from migrant camps on Europe's peripheries as well as from UN run camps in Lebanon.

This number however only represents a very tiny fraction of the people who arrived and who continue to arrive as migrants to Europe. And whilst 2015 may have been a peak year, there is no reason to believe the pattern of mass migration to Europe will be changing any time soon. With the EU announcing it will begin processing asylum applications in Africa - before migrants even first travel to Europe, increasing levels of instability in Libya potentially fuelling more migrants coming through that country, and a whole range of political and environmental issues that mean people will continue to leave the 3rd world en masse - it can be reasonably assumed that the migrant wave is far from over. In a recent television appearance, France's President Macron stated his belief that Europe is entering an 'unprecedented era of migration'; that will see the population of Africans living in Europe swell from 9 million to as much as 200 million in the next 30 years. In light of incredible statements like this, Ireland's slavish devotion to the migrant redistribution policies championed by the EU and western European heads of state, should be viewed with a great deal of foreboding.

In what's perhaps a final strange twist to the story of Irish involvement in the migrant crisis: many of the migrants who're coming to Europe are being brought by the Irish Navy. Since 2015 a number of Irish naval vessels have been operating in the Mediterranean, often close to the Libyan coastline, and have rescued thousands of migrants journeying from Libya and brought them to European shores. Quite what the Italian and Greek locals who witness Irish military boats bringing endless waves of migrants to their home shores must think of the Irish Navy, is anyone's guess.

A 2017 report by the U.K.'s House of Lords found the operation that deployed the Irish navy to the Mediterranean had done nothing to dissuade people smugglers or migrants coming from Libya, but may in fact be encouraging them.
So to summarise, in a country where the government were recently caught pushing literal 'fake news' - propaganda masqueraded in supposedly free media as independent editorials on the country's future demographic expansion - it is difficult to trust much of what they communicate or do with regards to arguably the most important issue of our time. The disconnect between what's promoted by Irish social and political elites, and what is lived and experienced by ordinary people is quite vast.

As easily as one can read the objectives of the Irish political class as being focused on the short-term political and financial gain from immigration, its ramifications are much greater than just elections and economics. Mass immigration of the kind that has hitherto gone largely uncritiqued has the potential to irreversibly transform Ireland.

More than 400 years on from the plantations, Ireland is still feeling the seismic cultural effects created by the importation of another group of people by an indifferent ruling class for economic and political ends. How much more seismic then will the effects be of settling untold numbers of people from considerably more alien cultures than the Scots and English ever were? Could Ireland even prepare for these effects even if it wanted to? Until this most important of issues enters serious discussion in our public life, we may never know how prepared we are and may never get the chance to overturn the policies that are making it happen. For as dire as the projections are, nothing is set in stone, nothing is yet irreversible; and Ireland's transformation is not yet complete.

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