On a poster placed near three hotels filled with asylum seekers and Ukrainian refugees, the residents of the small Irish town of Rosslare Harbour have a blunt message for the government: “Enough is Enough”.
Their peaceful, carefully calibrated campaign against using a fourth hotel to house hundreds more asylum seekers could not be more different from that of the anti-immigrant activists who helped incite a riot in Dublin in late November.
But both underline an uncomfortable truth for the Irish establishment: immigration is now firmly on the political agenda and for the first time is likely to play a significant role in national elections, due by early 2025.
“Will it cause anti-immigrant or far-right parties to gain traction? Yes, I do believe that will happen,” said local residents’ group chair Bernie Mullen of government policies around placing arrivals in small towns without consultation.
“There will be a backlash in the elections, and it’s their own fault.”
Ireland is almost unique in Europe in having no significant far-right political party, and pride at the country’s history of emigration has created a taboo around anti-immigrant rhetoric.
But that taboo has started to soften since the arrival of almost 100,000 Ukrainian refugees – the largest number per capita in Western Europe – joining record numbers of asylum seekers and a huge multinational workforce amid a crippling housing crisis.
The most dramatic sign of change was the Dublin riot, when a small group of far-right activists attacked police after the stabbing of three young children by a man Irish newspapers have identified as Algerian born, triggering a wave of violence and looting. Police have declined to comment on the suspect’s identity.
But there has also been a shift in political rhetoric. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in October told parliament the country had reached “a limit on our capacity” to house asylum seekers and refugees.
Source : Reuters