Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kenny on Immigration

“Celtic and Christian” would be the generic description used by any disinterested commentator if asked to provide a brief overview of Ireland. The four Irish Provinces have played for several years in the Celtic League (now Magners League) rugby competition, without demur from our Northern cousins. However, to the clique of neo-liberal, politically-correct, pedantic media commentators, these descriptors only conjure up, with horror, a narrow nationalist outlook.

Intrigued by the reaction to the recent Kenny speech on immigration, I actually took the trouble to go back and read it. Far from being a right-wing, nationalist diatribe, I found it to be a moderate and balanced call for development of coherent policies and delivery mechanisms to help immigrants. These include measures to prevent exploitation of immigrant workers, more language teachers in schools to help with immigrant children and adult language classes for the older cohort. Also, the appointment of a minister with specific responsibility for coordinating the variety of services provided by different Government Departments & Agencies.

Kenny does deal with the disproportionate number of non-nationals in our jails and involved in road fatalities, but not in any right-wing, reactionary or inflammatory way.

He also points out that there are at least 50,000 Chinese language students in the country - you’ll see many of them working as shop assistants and contract cleaners. Kenny’s assessment is that “rather than viewing these people as a source of cheap labour…we should engage closely with the large Chinese community to develop links with the fast-growing economies of China and the wider Asian markets.” Narrow-minded, racist nationalism indeed!

In the same week, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, addressing a public meeting at the Law Society, accuses Kenny of “playing the race card” and then puts forward his own proposal for detention centres for dealing with immigrants and citizenship tests for applicants. Hardly a word from our liberal commentators on that one.

If these media commentators succeed in stifling reasoned debate on this important topic, it greatly increases the risk of social and racial problems in future years.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Times & the Irish Examiner

No comments:

Blog Archive