The elite and governed on migration collision course

From the Irish Independent.
Executive Summary:
Ordinary people are getting screwed. The better off don't really care a two penny damn. The writer does not explain that mass Immigration is the major tool of Cultural Genocide and main line government policy throughout Christendom.

The elite and governed on migration collision course
With a quarter of a million on the dole and rising, seven out of 10 of us are -- according to a survey published last week -- worried about keeping our jobs.

With one in eight workers in the economy being immigrants, more and more people now believe immigration needs to be controlled. And jobs are not the only worry.

Our culture, our sense of identity -- the thing we cling to when the economy let's us down -- is under threat. Some groups, mainly the well-paid elites, argue that we should change the religious status of our schools, not to mention that of the Irish language, to make ourselves more accommodating to immigrants.

The jobs of the elites -- professionals and public-sector workers -- are largely insulated from displacement.

For them, immigration means cheaper au pairs and faster service in restaurants. The jobs of the governed aren't.

For them, immigration means losing your job to someone with far lower expectations. The elites have a cosmopolitan outlook. To them, our religion and the Irish language are relics of the past. The governed disagree. They've travelled abroad and like foreigners and foreign culture. But they like the idea of returning to an Ireland that is recognisably Irish. On the 400th anniversary of the first one, a second plantation is sweeping the nation and the two sides may be headed for a showdown. If they are, the man in the middle of it all is Minister of State with responsibility for immigration, Conor Lenihan.

A defender of the faith for one of Europe's most liberal immigration policies, Lenihan faces an outbreak of heresy. According to a poll published by Amarach consultants, two thirds of us now think immigration needs to be curbed. Before the poll, Lenihan used a speech to the Parnell summer school to point out that, unless we want to go back to cleaning our own toilets or working in burger joints, that may not be an option. But then again, with the CSO predicting that our immigrant population might rise to one in five of the population by 2050, the heresy is unlikely to go away.

Are there any limits to how many migrants we should allow? "The previous Taoiseach said that if the figure went beyond 15 per cent, there could be management issues," Lenihan says.

Some writers -- this writer included -- have suggested that even if we do need immigrants, our diaspora should get priority. According to Lenihan, they already do: "By invoking the grandparent rule, one is automatically entitled to live and work in Ireland". As for any clampdown down on EU immigration, that would breach EU rules on free movement of labour, he adds.

Ah yes, the EU. Despite our Lisbon vote, it hasn't gone away. "Short of a decision that we're going to retreat from the labour market requirements of EU membership, we have no control". And for those tempted to respond by saying "so what", Lenihan shrewdly points out that the EU could always retaliate. If accompanied by negative measures against immigrants from the EU with no Irish roots, a Paddy-come-home policy could seriously backfire, as Ireland is forced to accept more of its lost sons and daughters than even the most dewy eyed sentimentalist would like.

And anyhow, Lenihan doesn't agree that immigrants are harming Irish workers economically. At first glance, an ESRI survey published in the last few days appears to bear him out. Immigrants are, it says, more likely to face unemployment and discrimination and low pay than their Irish counterparts.

The trouble with this finding is that it implies conscious discrimination against immigrants when, in fact, the reality is more complex.

In the higher-paid and more secure public sector -- where even private-sector Irish workers let alone immigrants can't apply for high-paid jobs -- only 2 per cent of workers are non-Irish. That contrasts with restaurants and hotels, where two in five workers are immigrants, and construction and manufacturing, where the figure is one in five. The ESRI's findings thus reflect the fact that the sectors which are open to immigrants have more open labour markets, with lower pay and more unemployment.

Which begs the question, is it fair that public-service workers are protected from displacement, while brickies or taxi drivers face the full brunt of competition from immigrants?

Lenihan says there is no displacement: "Social partnership studies looked into the issue of displacement and found very little displacement at all. We have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe and among the best labour standards".

To date, he is correct. But things are changing and with a pay agreement not certain, the presence or absence of migrants in different sectors of the labour market could make a huge difference to pay packets and working conditions. A few short days after we conduct the interview, the CSO confirmed that our unemployment rate is now 6 per cent. A few days after that, the ESRI said it would rise further to 8 per cent. Lenihan has no answer to the charge of imbalance in competition.

On another charge he is more convincing. Stories of immigrants getting favourable treatment from government are unfounded, he says.

"I have heard stories about what immigrants are getting on social welfare and they belong to urban myth."

Wisely, given the result of the Lisbon referendum, Lenihan agrees that it's wrong to label as racist anyone who tries to debate immigration "We shouldn't be joining a cacophony of politically correctness," he says.

And he has tough words for illegal migrants. "We do operate a deportation policy. If there's illegal migration into Ireland, that has to be tackled and dealt with rather ruthlessly."

His strategy is to defend the principle of immigration by reassuring and not remonstrating.

"It's hugely important that immigration works for the indigenous population into which the immigration is coming," Lenihan says.

And the junior minister rejects the idea that the status of the Irish language or religion needs to be radically altered to accommodate immigration in our schools. "I've a strong level of contact with the immigrant community in Ireland and that's not their demand. But you'll always have extremes. There's no doubt that immigrants who come to Ireland -- 90 per cent of them -- fully accept the basis of Irish society and they're not on a mission to change it," he says.

"There is no issue in regard to [the Irish language], either from myself or my good colleague Batt O'Keeffe -- no issue and no desire. Sure immigrants like Sean Og O Halpin and Des Bishop are better Irish speakers than me", he jokes.

Marc Coleman is Economics Editor of Newstalk 106 to 108