Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Media Dam-Burst: After Lisbon

Immigration as an issue was gagged during the Lisbon debate, but as soon as the result was out, the dam burst and all three Sunday broadsheets admitted that immigration had been a big factor in the result. Here is what they had to say:-

In the political equivalent of stagflation the spectres of recession, unemployment and immigration were the key defining factors in Ireland’s EU Tale of the Unexpected.John Drennan – Sunday Independent.

The trade union debacle in helping to vote down the Lisbon charter of workers' rights is more complicated and a bit easier to forgive. At the heart of it lies the thing which dare not speak its name - the flood of foreign workers.

If anything lost the treaty, this was surely it. The pro-EU leaders of the country's biggest union, SIPTU, simply could not get a `Vote Yes' call past their members.

The foreign workers are a phenomenon of EU membership, of course. But the details as to how they are employed, and under what terms, are in large measure a matter for the Government.

The cloak of social partnership hid deep disagreement between the Government and employers on one side, and the unions on the other, over the kind of labour market the Irish economy needs.

It is still Boston or Berlin, but no-one wants to say so. Had that argument been fought openly, and the Government admitted it disagrees with the unions, and thinks giving them all they want would cripple the economy, there might at least have been a chance for voters to distinguish the baby from the bathwater, before both disappeared down the plughole.Brendan Keenan – Sunday Independent.

There is also the great unmentionable in Irish politics- the political impact of the recent surge of immigration. The Nice Treaty opened up Ireland to the citizens of the other 27 members and, as we enter more difficult economic times, a new tension around employment, schooling and social services may be emerging. Most profoundly, immigration has changed the Ireland we grew up in, and its permanence is just beginning to dawn on people. Many see Europe as the principal source of this change.Tom McGurk – Sunday Business Post.

Few will admit publicly to voting no for this reason, but privately many politicians believe concerns among some voters about the huge influx of foreign workers – particularly against the backdrop of a downturn in the economy - is a factor in declining support for the EU in Ireland. To be fair to the No side, nobody even hinted at this as an issue but it was unquestionably there in the minds of some voters.Conor McMorrow and Shane Coleman – Sunday Tribune.

Let it be noted that none of these papers attended our press conference in Buswell’s Hotel on the 19th of March; RTE attended but never used the footage; the Irish Times did not take up our offer to write on their Opinion and Analysis page, although even the crime writer, Freddie Forsyth was welcome. A complaint to RTÉ was met with the response that their reporters had not found immigration to be an issue in the campaign.


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