Dáil immigration debate 'nonsense and unacceptable' - Cairns

"What we're seeing is misinformation being spread, that filtering through into our communities"
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.55 7 Dec 2023

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Dáil immigration debate 'nonse...

Dáil immigration debate 'nonsense and unacceptable' - Cairns

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

18.55 7 Dec 2023

Share this article

A Dáil debate on immigration was 'nonsense and unacceptable', the leader of the Social Democrats has claimed.

Holly Cairns was speaking following the debate on Wednesday, which saw heated exchanges in the chamber on a motion from the Rural Independents.

Almost 12,000 international protection applicants have arrived here so far this year, with 361 asylum seekers arriving last week.


Independent TD Michael Healy Rae has said the Rural Independents group is not against people coming here, but there has to be a proper system behind it.

Deputy Cairns told The Hard Shoulder the Dáil is not the place to be discussing migration.

"What I was trying to get across in the Dáil yesterday was [that] this debate is nonsense, and I don't think that's where we should be having the conversation," she said.

"So, I started off by saying that the Rural Independents should be ashamed of themselves because I think that they know better.

"I think that as a public representative they have a responsibility to do better.

"What we're seeing is misinformation being spread, that filtering through into our communities.

"When they hear that instead of trying to tackle it... the reality is that our migrant communities add so much value to our lives, not to mention the fact that whole swathes of our public services would collapse without them.

"Instead, they went in and started a debate that untimetly feeds into putting a target on the back of 20% of the population.

"That 20% of the population are our neighbours, our loved ones, our colleagues.

"It's completely unacceptable and I think we need to really address the debate there."

'Stop and think'

Deputy Cairns said people need to "stop and think" about claims made about migrants.

"If you hear the voices of people who are trying to convince you that our migrant community are somehow dangerous or some kind of a burden on the State, we need to stop and think about that," she said.

"There is no link between criminality and immigration.

"Burden on the State? The opposite: the State would collapse without our migrant population.

"We need to consider where we're having this debate and say actually what happened in the Dáil yesterday is unacceptable".

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (right) with The Hard Shoulder host Kieran Cuddihy Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (right) with The Hard Shoulder host Kieran Cuddihy. Image: Newstalk

Deputy Cairns said she believes we have to focus on action.

"There's so much that can and should be done, and that's what we should be focusing on," she said.

"With respect to Minister Roderic O'Gorman, when he took over the ministry he wanted to end Direct Provision: that wasn't possible when the war broke out in Ukraine.

"At that time Catherine Day did another report and that report said one of the things we should do immediately… is build three or six reception centres - not one, and that was supposed to be by 2023.

"We were promised 700 modular homes, I think we have 204 today.

"So, all of these things is what we should be focusing on and calling on our Government to do that".

Climate change

Deputy Cairns said we need more medium and long-term planning.

"The irony of the Rural Independents, for example talking about how people don't feel safe and they don't want more immigration into the country, and we know the next biggest cause of immigration is going to be climate change," she said.

"They're the same the Deputies who argue against every policy to try and address that.

"We know the reality with climate change [means] there's going to be whole populations displaced.

"This is a reality, this is something that's going to happen and we need to prepare for that," she added.

Deputy Cairns said conversations also have to happen around integration and inclusion in communities.

Listen back here:

Main image: Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns speaking to the media in Dublin, 14/09/2023. Image: Sam Boal/

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Climate Change Dáil Immigration Debate Holly Cairns Michael Healy-rae Roderic O'Gorman Rural Independents Social Democrats The Hard Shoulder

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