The Afghan Hunger strike and immigration in Ireland


The Afghan hunger strike brought into sharp focus the new Ireland into which our country has been transforming over the last 10 years. Our booming economy and relatively high wage levels have drawn many thousands of immigrants into the country in search of a better life here. Much as the Irish once looked to America for the promise of a happier future, so many people from less well off countries now look to Ireland.

Many immigrants come to Ireland in better circumstances though, with a job offer in their pocket and expectations of a better life. The oft-repeated accusation is that they are “taking our jobs”. Although it seems logical, this idea is one of the most damaging of all. It stems from a false idea of scarcity that is encouraged by business owners, managers and the media as a whole.

The fact is we are a very rich country, and have more than enough wealth to go around - if it were distributed equally that is! There would be more than enough for us all to maintain a quite comfortable lifestyle. Most difficulties in our society stem from the fact that a small ruling class take most of this wealth for themselves. They spread the idea among the working class that there is not enough to go around and that other workers are a threat to our own income.

This is nonsense of course, what we need to do is to stand together with our fellow workers, whether they are immigrants or not and ensure that we are all paid properly for the work that we do. In the last year we have seen many news stories which revealed the widespread exploitation of immigrant workers in companies like Irish Ferries, Tesco and many others, especially in the construction industry . The tireless struggle of the workers involved to publicise these incidents and fight back against employers through unions or through the courts has made it impossible for the media to ignore them.

It was only when these situation were raised by workers in their trade unions that anything was done to improve things. Exploitation of any worker, including immigrants is a threat to everyone’s income - if the company can pay someone less than you for the same work, why should they take you on? This is exactly why we must work together in unions with our fellow immigrant workers to ensure that none of us are exploited and we are all treated with the respect we deserve.

This article is from The Libertarian. Issue 2 (August 2006), a newsletter for the Liberties and Portobello produced by the Workers Solidarity Movement

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