I’ve just come from a discussion on ‘The Stephen Nolan Show’ on BBC Radio Ulster. The focus was the recent call by Philip Hollobone, the Tory MP, for south of Ireland prisoners in British jails to be repatriated. Since Britain has generously extended a large loan to the south of Ireland, the south should respond by taking back its citizens, he says.
There may or may not be a case for such repatriation throughout the EU but Hollobone’s contribution to the British House of Commons debate has less to do with that than with appealing the bigot/semi-bigot vote that appears to lurk in his Kettering constituency. He has previous, as they say. Last February, in a Commons debate, he said that a Muslim woman wearing the burka was ‘like walking around with a paper bag over your head’. The Northamptonshire Race Equality Council called on the police to investigate Mr Hollobone for incitement to racial hatred (the call was rejected). Last June he introduced the Face Coverings Bill in parliament.And according to the TheyWorkForYou website, Mr Hollobone’s voting record in the Commons suggests he’s very strongly opposed to gay rights.
So this is the man who wants Irish prisoners repatriated from Britain. The sub-text of the statement is unmistakeable. It’s an appeal to those dark little thoughts that loiter at the back of some British minds about the Irish – that they’re violent, criminal, and of course thriftless and shiftless. Send them back where they came from. Enoch-talk.
As to such repatriation being a quid pro quo – we give you a helping hand to get out of your financial hole, you take back your citizens from our prisons – my cat has given itself a hernia laughing. George Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, has admitted that it’s in Britain’s interests to help support Irish banks, since an enormous amount of Britain’s financial dealings and exports are dependent on a healthy south of Ireland economy. Britain, quite rightly, is concerned with looking after No 1. That's what prompted the €7 billion loan, not altruism.
Speaking of money. Hollobone argues that Irish prisoners are costing Britain too much. Were the repatriation thing to become mandatory throughout the EU, the many British prisoners in EU jails would return to their home country. When he sees the bill for incarcerating his own repatriated criminals, David Cameron may wish to revise his response to Hollobone's brain-wave: the British prime minister told Hollobone 'You make a very good point'.