Twitter has been alight with ‘Irish considered foreigners in the UK’ outcry
By Bernard Purcell
Twitter has gone into a bit of a paroxysm about the Home Office’s non-committal response to a question from the respected Irish news website thejournal.ie about whether Irish people will be exempted from Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s acceptable foreign employees list.
The “migrants stole your job” sentiment which characterised Ms Rudd’s Tory party conference speech – and even made a shameful guest appearance in Prime Minister Theresa May’s own keynote address – has been roundly condemned as not just “dog whistle politics” but also verifiably false even in Conservative media here.
Just as well because the silence from Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s Labour Party has been conspicuous.
Sorry, does anyone remember voting for a Far Right government? Did I fall asleep for a year?
— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) October 5, 2016
We seem to have woken up with a UKIP government. Depressing doesn’t even begin to cover it. pic.twitter.com/O8DYc6smdE
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 5, 2016
Just got this text:
“Info required-If your child is not of British Nationality or was not born in the UK, pls inform the school by tomorrow”
— Tim Colbourne (@twrc) October 5, 2016
— MEP Martina Anderson (@M_AndersonSF) October 5, 2016
But the panic about Irish people has been based, not for the first time, on an ill-informed apprehension of the actual facts.
The story in the thejournal.ie is actually predicated on the Home Office’s refusal – in reply to the website’s perfectly legitimate question – to exempt, in advance, Irish workers from prohibitions which have not as yet been drawn up or legislated.
Ms. Rudd, a former Remain campaigner who is the sister of a highly successful financial communications entrepreneur, Roland, who was instrumental in the Remain campaign, actually rowed back quite a considerable distance from her original speech when pressed on detail on Radio 4’s Today programme.
Her brother has also joined in, via Twitter, the chorus of distaste at her original suggestions which are themselves an extension of the equally populist and fatuous “British jobs for British people” remarks by Gordon Brown all those years ago.
Roland Rudd retweeted this:
— Open Britain (@Open_Britain) 6 October 2016
But looming large across all of this is the legislation introduced by Clement Atlee in 1949, the Ireland Act, in response to Ireland leaving the Commonwealth and becoming a Republic.
The Act is long and complicated and has extensive provisions for Northern Ireland but notably it upholds the special position of Irish people in Britain, that they shall be considered settled and not as foreign nationals, per se.
The Ireland Act, 1949 also states: “It is hereby declared that, notwithstanding that the Republic of Ireland is not part of His Majesty’s dominions, the Republic of Ireland is not a foreign country for the purposes of any law in force in any part of the United Kingdom …”
Of course, that is not to say that Act cannot be repealed… but it would be a tremendously complicated, even by the scale of the already huge (possibly irreconcilable) challenge facing of the UK government’s embattled international treaty negotiators and parliamentary draughtsmen (and women).