Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Pointless Press Release of the week

March 11th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Equality, Equality Authority, Irish Politics, Social Policy

Maybe this can be a new series for MP. (submissions to tips @ )

Yesterday evening a ministerial press release landed in my inbox – I didn’t know about the launch of a political pamphlet by Niall Crowley for the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland but it obviously got up the nose of  Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy, Community Affairs & Integration John Curran.

So a press release was duly drawn up (no coincidence that there is a reshuffle next week) but it’s so poor and indeed draws more attention to the pamphlet – which is not a research report but is a political opinion on the actions of the government and what they really say about attitudes to minorities and migrants in Irish society. The release is below in it’s entirety as it was sent to the press list.

I laughed when I saw the paragraph in the release on the Equality Authority – it’s work continues? Ah yes split over two offices still, with less staff and a slashed budget and a muzzled board. And it’s widely agreed that the cuts nearly two years ago now to the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission’s budgets have had nothing to do with the recession. Indeed it’s expected that the equality areas of government policy are going to be moved from the Dept of Justice because the Green Party are not happy with how they have been handled and have been taking a lot of heat and Brian Cowen is fed up of the messing.

The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism have gone completely, so the crime figures he quotes are more difficult to gather.

But in pure political communications terms I’m wondering who wrote the release and what exactly were they trying to prove? Because if you were to reflect on integration and migration policy in the last few years you might be left wondering if there is a government policy and in the lack of a policy that all this minister can do is say it’s not really as bad as Crowley makes out and has no success stories or positive spin to show at all but just picking holes in figures obscurely. I mean if it was really a poor publication wouldn’t the best thing for the Minister to do be to ignore it rather than respond so unconvincingly?

Responding to the pamphlet entitled “Hidden Messages/Overt Agendas” written
by Niall Crowley and published by the Migrant Rights Centre the Minister
for Integration, Mr. John Curran T.D., said

“Normally I welcome contributions to the debate as I believe it is only by
discussion and debate that we can, as a society, deal with the challenges
posed to Irish and non Irish alike.

Unfortunately, for reasons I will make clear I cannot afford a welcome to
this contribution as I believe there are such omissions as to render the
pamphlet seriously flawed.

What are the omissions?

First of all, in the context of this Office no reference is made to the
grants given to national groups in various fields to support integration –
in sporting and cultural fields, as well as grants made available to local
authorities to support integration in their own areas.

The pamphlet quotes, correctly, the McCarthy report as recommending that
the Office of the Minister for Integration should be abolished and that
language support teachers in schools should be reduced from 2200 to 500.

The Government did not abolish this Office and the reduction in language
support teachers was to about 1500 at a cost, incidentally, of about 100
million euro.

The pamphlet does not record this fact.

In dealing with the Live Register the author claims that, in previous
recessions, the numbers on the register were in some way hostile to women
and older people and, as a consequence, apparently “massaged” so as to show
a lower total. While it is not germane to the current pamphlet it is
difficult to see how paying pensions instead of unemployment benefits would
have been of financial benefit to the Governments of those years.

In this recession the author claims that the Government is encouraging
migrants to return home as a means of reducing the numbers on the live

In support of this the author quotes an official of the Department of
Finance as saying that the overall projection for unemployment had been
reduced from 15.5% to 13.75%, predicated on significant numbers of non
national workers returning to their home countries and quoting an ESRI
projection that 40,000 non Irish nationals would leave in 2010.

Mr. Crowley then says “Unemployment, it would appear is now to managed by
encouraging migrant workers to leave Ireland”

This conclusion is simply not sustainable.

In dealing with racism the author states that in 2007 there were 224 racist
crimes reported in Ireland, an increase of 29.5% on the previous year.

The figures for 2006 – 173; 2007 – 214; 2008 172; 2009 – 126:

Use of incomplete figures can be misleading. There is no place for racism
but a full picture, good or bad, should be given.

The author makes much of the fact that there were only 77 labour inspectors
in August, 2009 despite the target having been set by the Government at 90
two years earlier.

The reality of the recession on public sector recruitment might have been
worthy of mention alongside the fact that at the time the commitment was
made there were 31 such inspectors.

Instead Mr Crowley states “This communicated another clear but unstated
political message that racism and exploitation are not as big a problem

It does no such thing.

On the Equality Authority it is true that Mr. Crowley resigned because he
believed that the proposed budget for the Authority for 2009 would not be

So did some members of the board of the Authority.

The fact is that a new CEO is in place and the work of the Authority

In similar vein Mr Crowley refers to other bodies where funding was reduced
or eliminated.

We are in a recession and the ability of the Government to continue to fund
activities as generously as in the past is limited.

In dealing with the National Employment Rights Authority Mr. Crowley
deplores the fact that inspectors of the Authority were given powers to
check for the existence of work permits were required and states “the
use….unhelpfully transformed an agency that was established to protect
employee rights into a source of fear and anxiety for some migrant

It is surely the case that a worker without a work permit is vulnerable to
exploitation, that an employer who employs such a worker is at a
competitive advantage vis a vis an employer who pays the appropriate fee
and that a separate agency should not be required to check for work

Mr. Crowley in his concluding remarks cites a UNDP report published in June
2009, which suggested ways of opening up migration paths.

The controls which have been put in place are regarded by the Government as

Concluding the Minister said that while issue could be taken with the use
of statistics (for example in regard to the number of complaints made to
the Equality Tribunal regard should be had to the outcome rather than the
fact of an application) and other aspects of the pamphlet he believed that
the facts set out by him supported his view that the pamphlet is seriously
flawed and he was left pondering it’s title “Hidden Messages/Overt Agendas”

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