If Harris is to marginalise extreme voices on immigration, he will need lasting results

Keir Starmer’s ‘love’ and respect for Ireland is a good starting point in the UK elections, write Finn McRedmond and Mark Paul


Good morning,

As we report in our lead story, this morning sees a third clearance of tents from the Grand Canal in Dublin.

The clearance of tents has become yet another example of inertia in the Government’s policy on immigration and accommodation. The State has shown it can move people on and find new beds: but not that it can sufficiently discourage people arriving, nor find enough beds. This matters from a humanitarian point of view (see the surround ear-bashing from NGOs and rights organisations delivered in the courts and news pages on Wednesday), but it is also a vital political issue. Simon Harris has thrown the kitchen sink at immigration since becoming Taoiseach: visibly firming up the State’s stance is the defining issue so far of his brief premiership.

The emphasis he is putting on migration is instructive. Around Europe, the issue has divided and shaped politics in many democracies. But as Jack Power reports today, citing the Danish example, a response that is seen to be effective from mainstream political parties seems to be one of the few things that curbs the rise of reactionary and extremist elements.

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Here, there has been a drop in arrival numbers among those seeking international protection – perhaps heralding a marginal easing of pressure on the State. But if Harris is to marginalise more extreme voices as Ireland proceeds through its elections, the dynamics of immigration politics suggest that he will need to show demonstrable and lasting results, and soon.

Elsewhere, the British election in five weeks will be about many things – but viewed from Dublin, the anticipated ascension of Labour leader Keir Starmer to the 10 Downing Street summit provides an opportunity for a long-awaited strategic reset with London nearly a decade in the making.

It is much needed, after the Brexit Wars, and the temporary puncturing by this spring’s migration spat of what was a fairly lukewarm rapprochement between the sides.

Our London-based contingent of Finn McRedmond and Mark Paul cast their eye over Keir Starmer’s “love” and respect for Ireland. Not a bad starting place, given where we’re coming from. Things can only get better, right?

Best reads

Miriam Lord takes in sing-songs, Russian jibes and a mobbed Taoiseach in an account of Wednesday’s careening Dáil action.

Flavour of the month. The issue on everyone’s lips. Jack Power has the latest on the EU’s crusade against smoky bacon crisps (and other delicious stuff).

Harry McGee is on the canvass with Kathleen Funchion in Ireland South.

Justine McCarthy is out with the centre-left in Dublin.

Newton Emerson warns those pursuing Irish unity may repeat the negotiation fallacies of Brexiteers.

Playbook

The day starts with oral questions for Catherine Martin and Darragh O’Brien from 9.30am, before Leaders’ Questions at midday. Questions on Policy or Legislation is before lunch and, in the afternoon, Government business is given over to legislation varying the rate of social welfare for newly-unemployed long-time workers. Private Members’ time is given over to Marc Ó Cathasaigh’s legislation to establish a Commission for Future Generations.

The full schedule is here.

In the Seanad, commencement matters start at 9.30am. Later in the morning, there is a motion regarding Parent’s Leave, before the Seanad adjourns at 12.30pm.

Here’s the full schedule.

PAC kicks off committee hearings at 9.30am: there will be a fresh round of recriminations and hand-wringing over the National Children’s Hospital, and the inevitable latest delay.

Also in the morning, the Good Friday committee is meeting on women and constitutional change, and the public petitions committee meets after lunch.

Here’s the full rundown.

Away from Leinster House, Mary Lou McDonald will launch Sinn Féin’s European election manifesto at 9.30am in Temple Bar. Roderic O’Gorman is due to field questions at Bloom at 6.30pm. Peter Burke is in Brussels and will have a round of media interviews, while Darragh O’Brien is opening a housing development in Dublin in the afternoon.

Later on Thursday evening, Prime Time is hosting a debate with candidates for the European constituency of Ireland South.

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