Irish Examiner View: Anti-immigrants trounced - Rejection no reason to be complacent

Irish Examiner View: Anti-immigrants trounced - Rejection no reason to be complacent

As we move beyond the champagne-or-tears aftermath of the election and review of how Ireland imagines its ambitions might be realised, the scale of the change demanded remains the dominant message.

There are, as adrenaline levels stabilise for an extended period of negotiations, a number of sub-plots that deserve attention. Especially as if those negotiations run into the sand the process may start all over again.

One, captured in a fleeting moment, was an all-too sharp reminder of why there remains so many valid concerns about Sinn Féin.

Waterford poll topper, David Cullinane, who got 20,569 first-preference votes, a record in Waterford and double the quota, may shrug off the criticisms of his in-victory-vertias “Up the Ra” but if his certitude and disdain for those who criticised his celebrations reflects of SF culture — then negotiations to form a government may become even more difficult than they already are.

His ebullience — a kind description — will remind those who might consider a liaison of the risks inherent in a power-at-any-price partnership.

It is, however, possible to reach one warming, entirely positive conclusion about how Ireland voted.

The absolute rejection of candidates of the far-right or those, often one and the same people, who stood as anti-immigrant candidates is something to celebrate.

That rejection is especially cheering as their counterparts in continental Europe, and a good number of those lurking in the shadows of Brexit, build-the-wall Americans too, have become such a presence.

Encourage by these developments, and protests over direct provision centres, around 30 people stood as anti-immigrant candidates.

They were, almost without exception, forcefully dismissed. However, Verona Murphy, stood down by Fine Gael, was elected in Wexford and Noel Grealish, who described African immigrants as “spongers”, was re-elected as independent in Galway West.

Those who built their campaigns on immigration alone were trounced. Not one, thankfully, will recover even their election expenses.

The National Party, established just four years ago, is among the most extreme Irish groups. Its leader, Justin Barrett, has argued that doctors who perform abortions should face the death penalty.

Nine NP candidates ran but none polled higher than 1.74%. The Irish Freedom Party ran 10 candidates and peaked at 2.06%.

Gemma O’Doherty, a conspiracy theorist and anti-immigration campaigner, got 1.97% in Fingal which prompted her weekend tweet:

“The Irish of #Fingal have voted once again for their own extinction.”

These figures might encourage a certain complacency but that would be unwise.

As the issue becomes ever more front-line, more sophisticated, more nuanced, less obviously distressed anti-immigrant candidates will appear on our ballot sheets. That, as German chancellor Angela Merkel discovered in recent days can have a huge, destabilising impact.

There are many ways to avert this possibility and one is a radical overhaul how we deal with refugees.

The absolute rejection of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee candidates is a tacit approval for such a plan, one that would pay dividends far beyond any election or nasty vote grab.

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