SUNDAY 19  MAY 2024


The tables have turned on Irish migration and
the Paddies don’t like it

‘Most countries send out oil or iron, steel or gold or some other crop, but Ireland has had only one export and that is its people.’

That was President Kennedy speaking during his visit to the land of his ancestors in June 1963, less than five months before his fateful date with Dallas. He was the most distinguished scion of that vast army of emigrants, mostly poor, looking for a better future in North America and in most cases finding one.

In the years (1845-52) of the Great Hunger, as the Irish famine was known, 1.8 million arrived in the US from Ireland and today 33 million US citizens identify as Irish American. In the UK there are 14 million who identify as Irish from both sides of the border and I am proud to be one of them.

But now the tables have turned. The Irish Republic has long shed the shackles of the Catholic Church and the backward-looking days of the wretched De Valera and is now a modern and buoyant European economy with a current surplus (yes, a surplus Jeremy!) of £7.5 billion. No wonder then that the poor and displaced are coming to Ireland to find hope and a new life. But guess what, the Paddies don’t like it.

They were generous in their welcome to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s evil but less so to the wave of immigrants from other benighted parts of the globe. So instead of welcoming signs proclaiming Cead Mile Failte, One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, the slogan now is the emphatic and menacing: Ireland is Full.

The situation has come to a boil with the news that 80 per cent of new arrivals have come to the Republic via Northern Ireland and the Irish High Court has ruled that they cannot be sent back because the UK is not a safe place. And the reason it’s not safe is because there is the danger those immigrants would be forwarded to Rwanda. And that’s not a safe place because the British Supreme Court ruled so. Oh do keep up...

Both the British and the Irish governments say they are ignoring those rulings from the two sets of judges on either side of the Irish Sea. And if an EU country (Ireland) sends the migrants back to the UK then why can’t Britain send them further onwards to France where they boarded those flimsy nautical death traps?

One thing’s for sure, the Irish, the most welcoming and relaxed of people, are in revolt, with a proposed detention centre burned down and protests on the streets. It’s becoming very serious and the more so because 2025 is general election year in the Republic. In Roscrea (pop 6,000) in Co Tipperary, the problem is so bad that one woman said: ‘This is just a one horse town but now even the horse has fled.’

Not surprisingly, columnists are having a field day with the sheer irony of this, not least my chum Dismore. Littlejohn takes a full page in the so-predictable Mail to prattle on about how it would never have happened had there still been a border in the island, ignoring the fact that the dismantling of border posts was a prerequisite of the peace the country enjoys to this day. Or of course that the border, drawn up in 1921, should never have existed.

Meanwhile the poor bloody migrants, not all of whom are fit young criminals as the right-wing headbangers would have you believe, are left stranded between the devil gang masters and the deep blue sea. It’s way beyond time that Europe (including Britain) agreed a way to stop the vile business of these ruthless and evil men earning vast sums from the misery of others. It cannot be beyond the wit of Britain and Europe to agree a Special Forces unit to go in and take out these gangs. Once and for all. On top of all that the government now admits it has ‘lost’ 3,000 illegals. If it wasn’t so serious it would indeed be funny. Or to quote the grim, unsmiling Irishman Connor Rooney in Road to Perdition: ‘It’s all so fucking hysterical.’


While waiting at Euston for a train to Manchester a few years ago I was curious to hear the music of a Mozart piano sonata over the latest announcement of delays. It was my introduction to the Station Piano, now common enough in mainline termini (London Bridge has gone one better — it has an old and rather good church organ.)

Well, some bright spark of a producer obviously thought this would make excellent TV and they were right. So if you haven’t yet seen The Piano (Channel 4) you really must. The format is simple enough, a member of the public is recorded playing the instrument and is marked by the great Lang Lang and the singer-songwriter Mika. The latest episode on Sunday was moving, not least because an 80-year-old man with dementia wrote and played a beautiful song for his wife.

But it was an 18-year-old boxer, with a hoodie and nose ring for goodness sake, who stole the show for me. He is from a one-parent family and brought up on a tough council estate in Manchester. And he was brilliant in his delicate interpretation of a Chopin Ballade. Ellis, for that is he, said he played so well (self taught of course) because he had nothing else to fall back on.

Which made me think that music should be high up on every school’s curriculum. Not just playing an instrument but appreciation of all genres.

My old school Methodist College, Belfast, is regarded as one of best schools for music in the British Isles. Last year seven girl choristers from the Chapel Choir sang at the coronation at the personal request of Charles. The larger school choir sang for his mother on her visit to Ireland in 2011 and regularly sings Evensong at Westminster Abbey when the abbey choir takes a summer break. Methody sends choral and organ scholars to Oxbridge on a routine basis.

Yes, yes, but that’s what you get when you pay so much for a top school. Wrong: Methody is a grammar school, albeit an HMC independent one, and fees are minimal with the local education authority paying for all tuition. It’s down to a mind-set and when I was there in the Sixties the director of music, Dr Willis, encouraged every one of us, if not to play or sing, then to understand. So much so that I was part of the choir for Handel’s Messiah, wedged in at the back miming every word.

It has continued since then under the formidable Ruth McCartney who retires at the end of this term. I have no doubt her successor will be worthy of the legacy.

So if Methody can do it, why not other schools, state or private? They can and they should. And in doing so it might well diminish kids’ reliance on social bloody meeja.


That odious self publicist Russell Brand, awash with allegations of rape and sexual assault, has been baptised into the Christian faith in the Thames, The Times tells me. Good luck with that, a case of a shit in the shit.


Update on former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson. His bail conditions have been relaxed in one respect: he can now have contact with his wife Eleanor who is charged with aiding and abetting. But both she and her husband, charged with one count of rape, one of gross indecency with or towards a child, and nine counts of indecent assault, are banned from any contact with a person under the age of 16.


1 May 2024