Politics watch: Migration challenge dominates debate, June elections in spotlight

Politics Watch: Migration Challenge Dominates Debate, June Elections In Spotlight
Here, we have a look at the issues likely to dominate political discourse in the week to come. 
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James Cox

Here, we have a look at the issues likely to dominate political discourse in the week to come.

Migration challenge

Migration has surpassed the likes of health and housing as the biggest issue on the Irish political agenda.


Interestingly, those canvassing for the upcoming local and European elections have reported it is barely mentioned on doorsteps, however it looms large for Government and opposition parties.

Taoiseach Simon Harris has clearly identified it as an issue he can make progress on in what will be a short leadership term, whether the Government runs its course until March 2025 or the more likely scenario of an earlier general election.

The clearing of the 'tent city' outside the International Protection Office (IPO) on Mount Street led to homeless migrants pitching tents along Dublin's Grand Canal.

A number of these asylum seekers were moved to State-run centres, but it did not stop more tents springing up further along the canal.


This highlights the complexity of the migration challenge, and the fact it will take more than symbolic operations to 'clear' it from prominent streets and areas.

The Government has now said it will review payments made to migrants.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe indicated the review is set to take place “within weeks”.

He told RTÉ the Government wants to assess why people are coming to Ireland – in line with how other countries do it.


“Obviously, the context of all of this is the number of people who are coming to Ireland has increased very considerably over the last number of months,” he said.

“This is happening to other countries as well. But this will be worked within weeks, and I know the Government will act quickly.”

In an article in the Sunday Independent, Taoiseach Simon Harris said Ireland needs to adopt a firmer system on migration.

He said his coalition Government is “working together to pull levers in a number of Government departments to ensure Ireland adopts a firmer system and ensures we are not out of kilter with other EU countries”.


He wrote: “This will not be a long drawn-out process.

“The Government will take decisions on this soon.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has been moving from its previously open view on migration to a more hardline one, undoubtedly due to its drop in popularity according to recent opinion polls.

Their website states:  “The Government has no plan for immigration. Their approach has been shambolic. Sinn Féin is opposed to open borders – Ireland, like every other country must have control of its borders.”


The Taoiseach tried to question Sinn Féin's changing stance on migration in the Dáil this week, prompting a strong response from Mary Lou McDonald who was critical of the Government's handling of the situation.

Expect similar debates in the Dáil this week.

Local and European elections

Local and European election candidates will be canvassing increasingly intensely in the weeks to come as we approach June 7th.

Election posters have popped up on every available poll and corner across the country in recent days.

The elections will be hotly contested, and seen as a big indicator of what way the political tides are turning.

There is a fear of far-right candidates making gains both locally and in Brussels, but how well they will actually fare at the ballot box remains to be seen.


In the UK, prime minister Rishi Sunak is facing increasing pressure to confirm a general election date (expected late this year) after the Conservatives were defeated resoundingly in the local elections.

This is probably a warning for the Coalition Government about how local elections can increase pressure on the incumbent leaders. However, it is unlikely they will fare as badly as the Conservatives have across the water.

In the US, president Joe Biden has cut some American arms aid to Israel after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored a warning not to launch an offensive in Rafah.

While Mr Biden has already lost thousands of votes ahead of the November presidential election, pulling away from Israel can only help him at the polls as Americans continue pro-Palestine demonstrations, particularly on college campuses.

Meanwhile, his predecessor and Republican opponent for the upcoming election is bogged down in court proceedings.

The hush money trial in New York is in full flow with explosive testimony from Stormy Daniels hitting headlines in the past week. The adult film actress alleges an affair with Donald Trump.

However, the details of the affair may be embarrassing, but whether the $130,000 (€121,000) payment she received was meant to influence the 2016 election is the crux of the case.

Mr Trump's presence at court has been mandatory, but he has made use of any days off to hit the campaign trail.


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