“There is an ominous stench in Ireland’s political sewer,” wrote the maverick one-time independent senator, TD and minister, Shane Ross, at the weekend.

Published: 23 January 2024

Like many, he is alarmed by the rising rage of ordinary citizens at the sheer numbers of strangers being imposed on their neighbourhoods without consultation.

At its worst, there have been arson attacks. Mostly, it’s hitherto welcoming locals saying their little villages and towns are now full up.

“Remember,” Ross recalled, “the days — only months ago — when our smug politicians boasted of how we were a tolerant, humane nation. Unlike the Brits, we were the least racist country in Europe.”

I remember it very well because it was both annoying and potentially dangerous. The Brits (widely judged probably the least racist in the world) had shown their horribleness by vetting people and assessing resources rather than inviting everyone right in.

I used to explain that owing to having had decades of experience of sudden arrivals of large numbers of asylum seekers, and being frequently overwhelmed, they’re trying to make the process as orderly as possible.

I also tried to point out that despite bad times with Irish and Islamic fanatics murdering people on its streets, the UK has been extremely tolerant in accepting vast numbers of many religions and colours — significant numbers of whom have ended up at the top of the political tree.

Recently, the country coped pretty well, with more than 150,000 Ukrainians and 100,000 Hong Kongers fleeing the totalitarian government imposed on them by China.

I should have known I was wasting my breath. Hardly anyone had listened over the years when I suggested Ireland should learn from the UK’s many mistakes by listening more keenly to the ordinary person who puts up with a lot but doesn’t want his country utterly transformed and his culture and race trashed.

Ross continued. “We welcomed Ukrainians to our shores. We would give them food, shelter and jobs. We could hold our heads high among the nations of the world.”

Good. Excellent to see that the Irish enjoying being benefactors rather than victims, though the characteristic tone of “aren’t we great”, was peeking through.

And then he added: “Our tolerance had ensured there is no right-wing, anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist party polluting politics in Ireland. We are clean.”

What! This guy has been around politics for years. I had thought what he was writing had an element of self-parody.

How wrong was I? He’s serious. He wants to suppress the ordinary person’s unfashionable opinions.

His stupendously stupid solution then boggled my imagination.

All the party leaders should clear out the “far-right sympathisers” in their parties and deal with “the large racist rump in our electorate”.

“Leo [Varadkar] should invite Micheál [Martin], Mary Lou McDonald and all party leaders to join him in a countrywide tour.” Their TDs and senators should be required to form “welcome committees” in every constituency, and their parties should refuse to nominate anyone who failed to join the fight against racism. Any TD who was ambivalent should have the party whip removed: sitting TDs “who failed to commit wholeheartedly” should be deselected. “This battleground is not normal politics. It is a sewer where only rats can prosper.”

It’s escaped him that in the UK, under a great deal of stress at times, a free press has aired grievances, dissenting voices in political parties and Nigel Farage and UKIP have provided a vital safety valve and thus most of the time the peace has been kept.

The reality was brilliantly summed up by a resident of Roscrea, a town of 5,500, which having welcomed significant numbers of foreigners, now has its only hotel repurposed for asylum seekers without consultation.

“There’s no joined-up thinking when it comes to refugees in this country”, he said. “None of the big questions get answered, like how many people can Ireland take in, or what’s happening to the people who get here illegally? If you even ask that question out loud, you’re accused of being a racist. But people have had enough.”

If anyone can find Shane Ross’s marbles please return them. In the meantime, listen to people like the Roscrea guy and learn the lessons from the neighbour’s experience.

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