Immigration and the Inequality Agenda

Councillor John Kyle (PUP)Belfast PUP Councillor Dr John Kyle writes exclusively for Slugger on the issue of immigration 

Loyalist communities could be forgiven for feeling rather confused these days. The Conservative and Labour parties are outdoing one another in their proposals to control immigration. Both are saying that they failed to recognise the problems created by uncontrolled immigration, particularly for working class communities. The Labour Party in particular has criticised recruitment agencies which have recruited almost exclusively from Eastern European countries.

However Loyalist communities have been widely criticised for complaining about the pressures arising from trying to integrate minority ethnic newcomers. In certain quarters (including some media outlets who should know better) loyalist communities have been vilified as institutionally racist. The ‘hate capital of Europe’ being the most lurid and exaggerated epithet thrown in their direction.

There are two wrongs contained in this narrative. The first is racism and, let’s be clear, this is not just wrong but destructive and pernicious. The second is that Loyalist communities are endemically racist. I know from first hand experience that working class communities from both the main traditions have done excellent work welcoming, supporting and integrating newcomers.

That is not to deny that racism exists; regrettably it does and racist crimes occur but they are not endorsed or supported by the wider community. We should do more to challenge racist views and the myths that purport to justify them. The recently published document ‘I’m not a racist but…‘ convincingly contradicts many of these myths but statistics can mislead and conceal genuine inequalities. We need to recognise that the burden of welcoming, supporting and integrating newcomers is not spread evenly across our society. While only 3% of primary school children are newcomers the percentage is much higher in some schools which are, in some cases, already struggling to cope. The burden is disproportionately borne by working class communities; those who have least are being asked to make the greatest contribution to this task. The communities which have been hardest hit by the economic downturn and austerity measures are being asked to shoulder the lion’s share of this challenge. The areas where there is a shortage of social housing, under performing schools and high unemployment are the areas which have to assimilate new cultures, languages and practices. They need help.

The Creating Cohesive Community Project in the Lower Ormeau and Botanic areas is an excellent example of how communities can accommodate newcomers and embrace difference. But it did not just happen. It required talented and motivated people, funding and a multi-agency approach to achieve its goals.

There are proposals for a similar project in East Belfast. The community has responded to recent racist incidents by putting together a very comprehensive and achievable strategy. These measures do not require huge sums of money but with talk of cutbacks it seems they are being ignored. The Executive must take this task seriously and give it priority.

Furthermore, rather than criticise communities because of their struggle to integrate ethnic minorities, our better off middle class constituents who are much less affected by the newcomers should consider how they can share the burden.

A pressing need is for more social housing. There is an unacceptably high number of voids- social housing units unoccupied and needing refurbishment. If we are serious about relieving housing pressure then why not increase domestic rates to create a fund for refurbished rental accommodation?

Primary schools which are already coping with high numbers of children with special needs could benefit from extra support to help children whose first language is not English. The education budget should be apportioned to recognise this challenge or increased to meet it.

We will never completely eradicate racism but more support from our better off citizens could make a huge difference to relieving the pressure on already stressed and financially stretched communities. This is acting in the common good, and what’s more it’s only fair.

  • Dan

    Oh god, here we go again.
    Raise rates to spend more money on the ‘disadvantaged’. Give my head peace.
    When I drive through such areas, I often wonder how so many disadvantaged can afford that £500 a year for Sky,

  • delphindelphin

    People that know about this kind of thing tell me it is possible to hack into the Sky system and get their programming for a lot less than £500 pa, this is particularly prevalent among the enterprising ‘working class’. I of course do not
    condone this, and the resulting loss of income to the ‘Dirty Digger’ and his empire.

    I also think that Dr Kyle, who works at the sharp end of health and welfare in E. Belfast, is worth listening to. I don’t agree with his politics but the idea of carefully targeted tax and spend seems worth considering.

  • Turgon

    Kyle makes some fair points. However, without wishing to play the man there is an immense logical and moral disconnect between Kyle’s work as an inner city GP, the politics the PUP claim to espouse (left of centre socially liberal “progressive” policies) and the actual outworkings of that party’s actions in terms of racism and deprivation.

    The reality is that the PUP remains inextricably linked to the UVF. A previous leader Brian Ervine defended that link and the latest leader is a convicted sectarian child murderer. Even leaving aside those massive issues there is the pernicious effect of loyalist terrorists on working class unionist comunities. Their effect is one of the major contributors to social deprivation, lack of enterprise etc. in those areas. That effect can help explain (but in no way lessen) the evil of racism in those areas. Furthermore it is inconcievable that UVF members have not been involved in racist behaviour in the likes of inner east Belfast. Indeed it is extraordinary likely that UVF members / supporters are amongst the main culprits in committing racist crimes.

    The PUP may claim to oppose criminality but in reality they are at their most prominent when supporting loyalist thugs who have been arrested: usually for criminal actions to do with organised crime, drug dealing, prostitution and protection rackets etc.

    Working class people in general suffer disproportionally from crime especially organised criminals and working class unionists in the areas the PUP claim to represent suffer more than most groups. This suffering is largely at the hands of the UVF along with the rest of the alphabet soup of loyalist thugs.

    As such Kyle’s comments are laudable but he ignores the huge issue of organised criminality blighting the areas he wants to help and the actions of his own party in facilitating such criminality.

    Whilst I agree that working class unionists are not endemically racist the UVF and PUP are very definitely endemically racist and sectarian into the mix as well.

  • kalista63

    Fantastic response. Mr T.

    I would add that is incumbent on Kyle, an educated man, to point his community in the right directions re the causes of their problems.

    I’m never really sure of Jim Wilson’s history or if he is in the PUP did he did fess up to suggesting that last year’s poster campaign, though said he didn’t organise it.

    when I see and hear the likes of this, I think of the lovely Polish family upstairs and other immigrants in my area. They don’t sit on their arses waiting for things to be done for them, they make it happen.

    Much is made of them being different. People that lift their sticks and move to wherever better fortune lies who not be more like us if the marched/Irish danced their way along the bloody road.

    Loyalists need to,puss off and look at the blatantly obvious causes of their problems (they won’t have to look too far) and leave imigrants and the rest of us to get along with modern living.

  • Brian O’Neill

    It does always seem to surprise me how people can we so
    opposed to helping out poorer kids with education.

    On a purely economic basic it costs something like £100,000
    a year to keep someone in a young offenders centre. My cousin works in one of
    these places and he tells me stories of sitting down with 16 year olds and
    having to teach them how to tell the time – it is that bleak. It litterally would be cheaper to send them to Eton (if Eton would accept them). There was a case that year where is was costing £250,000 a year to deal with one teenage criminal.

    Educational intervention with more special needs tutors,
    classroom assistants, early intervention programmes etc can really change the
    course of a kid’s life and they are a fraction on the cost of incarceration. It
    may seem impossible to comprehend but there is kids who go to school who have
    never ate with a knife and fork, the teachers have to show them. Kids not being toilet trained is another issue for schools.

    Either there is something in the water in poor areas that
    makes them more liable to crime or we need to accept that deprivation causes
    crime. And yes I know most people who live in poor areas are law abiding
    citizens but likewise in Maghaberry Prison there
    is not a wild lot of inmates from the Malone Rd. Sure you are always going to get your bad eggs who end up in prison no matter what, but is it too much to ask that a kid from a poor area at least gets a chance?

    Putting aside all ideology, better education is a cheaper
    option than incarceration the so why do we consistently turn a blind eye to educational
    underachievement in poor areas?

  • nigel mckinney

    Whilst it may be true, this article doesn’t provide ANY evidence for the claims with respect to the negative impact of immigration on working class ( loyalist) communities in NI.
    I’d like to see some

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I appreciate the authors points to a certain extent, but it does have the air of looking down from above (as per usual among the political classes). Kyle writes about the poor being asked to shoulder the burden…

    “The burden is disproportionately borne by working class communities; those who have least are being asked to make the greatest contribution to this task. The communities which have been hardest hit by the economic downturn and austerity measures are being asked to shoulder the lion’s share of this challenge. The areas where there is a shortage of social housing, under performing schools and high unemployment are the areas which have to assimilate new cultures, languages and practices. They need help.”

    Whilst I don’t necessarily disagree, and whilst I’m sure he works at the coal face of some of these issues, the fact remains he writes from a removed viewpoint. Much like Cameron et al. extolling the mantra of “all in this together” from a mansion and a chauffeur driven car…not that i begrudge Cameron or Kyle for that matter their success, their education, their opportunities in life, merely that I find it telling that yet again it is someone who is not living it who has these views…Those who are living it are either:

    A: not speaking out publicly with the same message that Dr Kyle purveys because they disagree

    B: not speaking out publicly because the racism which categorically DOES exist within these communities (the communities are not defined by it, but it is 100% there, this much is not up for debate) is orchestrated by people that the average non-racist citizen fears speaking up against

    All too often politicians look at the situations “the poor” find themselves in and throw in their observations on the cure-all solution to inner-city problems…

    Yet when the people living in these inner-city problem areas look at the situations politicans find themselves in and throw in their observations on the cure-all solution to stormont problems…what message is received? Not that necessarily the “Themmuns up at Stormont do nothing but argue and get on like kids” message is true (in fact I regularly rang against the generalism of that statement) but it is neither more or less true than politicians and the bourgeoisie casting “i’ll tell you what the problem is…” from up on high.

    Racism is bad M’kay?

  • Brian O’Neill

    To be fair John is an inner city GP and he would see enough social problems in a day to give an entire year of plotlines for Eastenders.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Without a doubt, But perhaps observer bias exists a bit. He sees them at their worst… And even still, doesn’t change the fact that few if any from within the racist-painted communities are speaking loudly against the label.

  • Zeno3

    Immigration is a direct result of the EU Freedom of Movement charter. There is a debate on who benefits from the charter. Employers benefit from a cheap and plentiful supply of workers. Wages are kept down as the ordinary workforce lose their bargaining power because of the law of supply and demand. Then extra burdens are placed on Social Services, Education and Healthcare. So there is at least a case that can be made that it affects all the working classes.

  • kalista63

    My partner is a CPN in the same area. The UVF and the rest keep her and her team very busy.

  • kalista63

    I lived in Ballyhackamore about 20 odd years ago and it was a wasteland for socialisation. Today, the place is wonderfully unidentifiable, full of ‘blow ins’ and metropolitan.

  • Brian O’Neill

    What is a CPN? A nurse? Can you expand on her experiences?

  • Abucs

    We need to have a steady mix-mash of foreigners displacing locals so that liberals can fantasise over their post cultural secular utopia. The more close the social and cultural bonds of the population the less they look to government. Yet the liberal fantasises over strong government and needs a weak, fragmented society to try yet again to build his failing secular utopia.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Then extra burdens are placed on Social Services, Education and Healthcare. ”

    What goes around comes around:

    http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21635041-britain-imports-young-sprightly-migrants-and-exports-creaky-old-ones-balance-ailments

  • Trap 6

    That’s the sort of stuff that could win somebody an election, makes sense to me.

  • kalista63

    Yep, community psyc. She’s obviously limited in what she can tell me and I’m clearly even more limited on what I can say on here

  • barnshee

    “. Even leaving aside those massive issues there is the pernicious effect of loyalist terrorists on working class unionist comunities. Their effect is one of the major contributors to social deprivation, lack of enterprise etc. in those areas.”

    Are they also to blame for the problems in the DLA capital of the world -West Belfast?

  • barnshee

    “but there is kids who go to school who havenever ate with a knife and fork, the teachers have to show them. Kids not being toilet trained is another issue for schools.”

    And why should correcting these habits be the responsibility of teachers?

  • carl marks

    “Mainstream” unionists when it comes to loyalists and the loyalist terror groups talk with a forked tongue, with one side of their mouth they occasionally condemn them for their criminal activities but on the other side they make pacts with them when it suits.

    Every year or so statistics appear that show the alarmingly low level of educational achievement and high levels of social deprivation among the loyalist community and little is said or done by either the DUP/UUP/TUV., but a issue involving Flags or Parades and you cant move for the great and the good amongst Unionism.

    Despite the ” pernicious effect of loyalist terrorists on working class unionist communities. Their effect is one of the major contributors to social deprivation, lack of enterprise etc. in those areas.” the three main Unionist parties are happy enough to form alliances with loyalist terrorists most lately at Twaddell.
    On the question of why so many immigrants have moved into loyalist areas It has to asked why loyalist areas have so many vacant properties, perhaps if those communities did not have a history of forcing out anybody who wasn’t like them then there would not be so much empty housing!
    Loyalist’s have always been unionist’s cannon fodder. from Carson, craigavon,Craig, Paisley and Robinson, wither it was gunrunning,Burntollet, UWC lock out, Drumcree or Twaddell they have been used shamelessly and dropped (remember the handwashing that took place over the third Farce) just as shamelessly when it suited.

    Education and investment is most certainly needed but but There seems to be little or no ethos within loyalism and working class protestant communities regarding education and why should there be after all none of the parties leading them seem to regard it as important, certainly not as important as getting a band linked to a loyalist terror group up the Crumlin road.

  • carl marks

    Always the Liberals, the world must have been a perfect place before those Pesky liberals appeared!

    Just a few questions;

    What is a “post cultural secular utopia” have you ever heard any liberal calling for this?
    And (I know you hate this bit) any proof that anything you said is based in fact in any way what so ever!.

  • Framer

    The concept of racism does not add value to matters now. It is a debased stick to beat others with and a weapon of the liberal terror. There are racially motivated crimes which are for the courts and police to deal with.
    What is amazing is that things now being said by Ed Miliband and Labour on immigration and the party’s new policies of restriction, if said 5 years ago, would have led to your arrest.
    With over 100,000 newcomers to Northern Ireland in under 10 years there are inevitable social consequences not least middle class flight from certain schools.
    The problem with ‘I’m not a racist but’ is that it is suffused with a mission to justify, explain, minimise and then condemn. It is classic evidence based research – these are our conclusions now find the evidence for them.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Trying to turn humanity into something which they are plainly not is a project of
    Sisyphean pointlessness and doomed to fail.

  • Robin Keogh

    What the piece above fails to take into account is the decades of sectarian indoctrination that took place within the Broad Unionist family. I dont believe for a moment that the majority of Unionists/ Loyalists are racist; far from it. However there is a significant rump minority that have been bred to hate, sneekingly guided by the hand of big house Unionism for years. Inherited from the ascendency and refined during the years of the old Stormont dictatorship, an entire community was encouraged to discriminate against their neighbours, justified by nothing other than a misplaced superiority complex. It is not hard therefore to understand how that culture can morph into what we now see as the scourge of racism, rampant within extreme Unionism. It may well give comfort to many to point the finger of blame at the Loyalist working class community but the monster was created decades ago and the only way to subdue it is through education and community outreach. I am not ignorant to the fact that racism is also active within the nationalist community but anybody who would try to draw a comparison suggesting the sin offends to an equal degree in both communities is either in denial or simply lying. The kid glove approach to Unionist bigotry and racism in particular, cannot be allowed to continue to fail those victims who have suffered at the hands of pastors, politicians and marauding loyal subjects.

  • ……..

  • carl marks

    sorry can’t see your point, reads like a exercise in whataboutry with a very confused understanding of history.but it nice to see that the old unionist tradition of blaming everything on themuns is still with us.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Good article Kyle.

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont know what your point is there? What has it got to do with the article?

  • eiregain

    “The Irish would have been the same if Ireland had a country that was once great and had won battles”

    We would have been the same HAHA
    Your superiority complex is showing!