Ireland needs to move beyond ‘emergency response’ to immigration, Harris says as ‘community feels they’re not heard’

Long-awaited plan on immigtation in Ireland will be an important step, says incoming taoiseach Simon Harris

Incoming taoiseach Simon Harris has said that Ireland needs to move beyond an “emergency response” to the immigration situation and said the long-awaited plan being brought to Cabinet will be an important step in that direction.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet on Wednesday morning, the Fine Gael leader said that in relation to accommodation, the proposals from Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman, which are understood to include an expanded programme of purchasing and construction of accommodation, are needed as “the community feels that they’re not being heard”.

Government sources said the issue of the “last hotel” in a town being used would become less prevalent as more accommodation is brought on stream. Local representatives have long campaigned against closing functioning amenities in towns was counterproductive and far-right activists have travelled to protests held at these and other proposed accommodation centres.

The Coalition’s goal is to move away from a “total reliance” on private providers towards State-owned accommodation alongside commercial providers which will be held to higher standards.


“We need to move beyond an emergency response to the immigrant situation, and try to get to planned sustainable system,” Minister Harris said. “Really I see the two proposals being brought before my colleagues today as an important step in that direction. On the justice side recognising that this island needs to work with other European countries, recognising that there needs to be rules across the EU, recognising that we can be better when it comes to processing clients, that we give people a quicker answer, if they are to be integrated or if they need to leave.”

“And on the accommodation side similarly, we have to move from an emergency response, the community feels that they’re not being heard,” he said.

“To actually be able to say to people, ‘here’s the plan, it’s going to take us time to get here, but here’s the plan’, and I very much welcome the approach being taken that will see a less reliance on public-private partnerships.”

Mr Harris said that when it comes to the issue of providing accommodation for asylum seekers we can be “extraordinarily proud as a country”.

“The compassionate approach we’ve taken. I’m extraordinarily proud of that. I know the benefits of migration, this country relies on people coming here, we are stronger for migration,” he said.

“But equally, I’ve heard from communities right across Ireland, rural and urban, that real sense of frustration.”

Mr Harris said that is was important to have a “coordinated approach” to immigration.

“Quite simply, this idea of taking whatever is available right now is not sustainable,” he said.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter