A large number of moderate MPs, especially young women, will not contest next month’s British election. Many say they cannot endure the aggression representatives face.
That nastiness is epitomised by home secretary Priti Patel’s proposal to “test the appetite to go further” with anti-Traveller legislation. Ms Patel wants police to confiscate the vehicles of “anyone whom they suspect to be trespassing on land with the purpose of residing on it”. That gaslighting will play out well in Middle England — Middle Ireland too — but it is racist. Because Britain seems further along the road to a darker, uglier place than Ireland, Ms Patel’s supporters will cheer this Home Counties ethnic cleansing.
How Fine Gael’s Dublin Mid-West by-election candidate, councillor Emer Higgins, must envy the latitude afforded to the odious Ms Patel. Ms Higgins had to apologise after she expressed “delight” that Traveller housing planned for her area would not go ahead. She must wonder, too how, her remarks differ from those of Culture Minister Josepha Madigan on the same issue. As Peter Casey’s 21% in the presidential election confirmed, anti-Traveller sentiment simmers in this society.
Nasty as that may be, it pales when compared to the comments expressed by Galway West TD Noel Grealish when he, inaccurately, said €3.54bn had been sent from Ireland to Nigeria over the last eight years. The CSO puts that figure at €17m a year. The deputy wondered if the State could ensure that money was “not the proceeds of crime and fraud”. He must know the answer, yet he asked it to serve his toxic ends — just as he did in Oughterard when he called immigrants “spongers”.
This is how the process begins, this is how the Patels of this world get traction and eventually a seat at cabinet. In a country scarred to the very marrow by bigotry, in a country where immigration is as everyday as rain, in a country where the echoes of internecine gunfire still ring all too loudly, this hatred of the other cannot be tolerated, because we all know only too well where it ends.
Shame on you, Deputy Grealish.