Posted on August 21, 2008

Risible Lies About Immigrants No Substitute for Honest Debate

Ken Myers, Irish Independent (Dublin), August 15, 2008

D’you know—and for reasons you might possibly soon understand—I was rather hoping that someone else was going to pick up on a story which appeared when I was on my summer break. But no one did. Hmmm. I wonder why? Ah well, into the valley of death, et cetera.

Last week, the figures appeared for the numbers of people receiving full state-subsidy for rental accommodation in Ireland. Nearly 40pc of them are immigrants. Most of these are EU nationals, and are entitled by law to the same benefits as are Irish nationals. So, the 3,061 British-born people who are getting their accommodation paid for by the state are enjoying no more than the rights which Irish people in Britain would get. Indeed, the British are top of the league of foreigners who are claiming rent allowance. And this is not surprising, for they are also the most numerous foreign group, numbering some 112,000, according to the 2006 census.

Second in the list of foreign groups availing of free accommodation, courtesy of the State, are who? Citizens of fellow EU states, such as the Poles, the Latvians, the Czechs or Slovaks? No, indeed not. The people who come second in the rent-allowance league table are the Nigerians—barely less than the British, with 3,024 claimants. But whereas the British figure constitutes just 2.7pc of the total population of Britons living here, the figure for Nigerians is 18.6pc of their total Irish population of 16,300. Alas, just how many more Nigerian dependents are the beneficiaries of the rent allowances that are being granted to the 3,024 family-heads, I cannot say.

Now this reliance upon the state for the accommodation of so many Nigerians reflects another rather uncomfortable truth which was revealed in the 2006 census, but which has never—so far as I know—been highlighted in the media. It is this: contrary to almost all predictions about the impact of immigrants upon an economy, a majority of Nigerians are not economically active at all. For even at the height of the boom, in 2006, only 38pc over the age of 15 were at work.

Maybe this is because so many are too old for work? Not so. There are almost no Nigerians over 50. Their average age is 26.6, with some 10,000 between the ages of 25 and 44. Yes, there are a large number of Nigerian children (3,845 under fifteen), but that figure of 38pc at work is a percentage of the over-15s only. The equivalent working proportions are: Poles, 84pc; Lithuanians, 82pc; and Latvians 82pc. On the other hand, the figures for rental-subsidy (remember: Nigerians 18.6pc) are Poles, 1.5pc; Lithuanians, 3pc; and Latvians, 4.3pc.

Now, you may think that what you have read so far has required a colossal amount of sleuthing—not so. Most of these figures were presented in five separate national profiles—British, Latvian, Polish, Lithuanian, Nigerian—by the Central Statistics Office in its report on the 2006 census, no doubt to make life easier for us baffled, thicko, journalists. Yet so far as I can see, no other journalist has chosen to use the startling CSO revelations, leading to the first of many questions, all of them beginning—why?

Why are so many people, from a country to which we have no moral or legal or historical obligations, living off this state? Why are they being allowed through immigration, if they have no jobs to go to? Why are they choosing to come to Ireland, when 20 countries or more lie between their homeland and ourselves? And finally, and perhaps most important of all, why is no one else asking why? Why did no one else pick up on the immigration digest so thoughtfully provided by the CSO?

Is it because we are too polite? Too timid? Too stupid? Too scared about being called racist? Which is all very well, but such intellectual and emotional repression does not usually end benignly. In place of openly spoken and verifiable truths, risible lies are whispered and believed, such as that “asylum seekers” are given free driving lessons and even cars, or that the ducks in public parks are vanishing because immigrants are catching and eating them. The acceptance of such gibberish is the foot-in-the-door of racist scaremongering, and can only happen in the dark of media-contrived ignorance, and all usually ending in tears.

For the real issue is not the number of Nigerians living here, nor even the absurd and unacceptable dependency of so many of them on this State. No, it is the abject refusal of the Irish people, both through the media and the Dail, to have an open debate about the biggest issue facing this country. Instead, to judge from events this time last year, our national broadcaster will soon be accusing the Catholic Church of racism—either for wanting Catholic children in its Catholic schools, or for not preparing places for African children who were not even in Ireland when the school rolls were being filled. And, naturally, for this is Ireland, it’s professionally far more rewarding for the media to go on an easy, Catholic-bashing spree than it is to inquire into the complex and possibly discomfiting truths about immigration.