HELEN McEntee, the South’s Justice Minister, chanced her arm last week. She said that  80 per cent of immigrants presenting themselves for registration in Dublin had arrived there via the North, even though there were no reliable figures to support her claim. 

Rishi Sunak and his Tory party, not to mention unionist politicians, hugged themselves with glee. Now politicians in the South were getting what they’d wished for. Jim Allister  & Co had fought and failed to get a land border across Ireland and had to swallow hard and accept the border in the Irish Sea. Now the Dublin government was learning the disadvantage of having an open border between South and North, with all these  immigrants streaming into the South.

And why were they streaming? Because of Rwanda, Rishi Sunak boasted. If they remained in the UK, there was a danger they might be deported to Rwanda. Nothing like a Rwanda threat to clear them out of the UK and 'Ya boo sucks!' to  you pesky Southerners.

As I say, there was no data bank or hard figures to support Helen McEntee’s claim of 80 per cent coming from North of the border. There  may have been  more, there may have been less.  But Jim and Rishi & Co went on throwing their greasy caps in the air. To coin a phrase: Gotcha! 

And did I mention Nigel Farage? “Unlike the English, who say very little, the Irish are speaking out – and protesting on the streets – about the huge number of young, male ‘asylum seekers,'" he wrote.

There’s nothing like stoking up people’s fevered fears. “I have five girls and two boys, and the girls are afraid to go out at night,” one man told the media. A woman called Lisa O’Neill told the microphone: “I’ve a housing crisis – there are six of us in a two-room maisonette. Shame on the government. Look after your own first.”

It's painful to admit, but dig deep enough in most of us and there’s a wide streak of prejudice to be found. Long, long before our present immigration cock-up, Irish people have been practising the dark art of bigotry. 

For example? Well, Irish Travellers have lived in our midst for years and have suffered some of the worst discrimination and poverty of any ethnic group in Europe, according to European Union research. If you’re a Traveller male, you’ll die 15 years earlier than your settled counterpart.  The Traveller suicide rate is six times that of the settled population. Travellers have higher levels of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bronchitis and asthma. And good luck if you’re a Traveller who’s looking to be served in an Irish pub.

Do Irish people care? Nah. We view Travellers the way the British in the nineteenth century viewed us: ape-like, drunken,violent. So what chance then for immigrants from abroad?

One of the reasons we’re so panicked about 'farners' is that at first we told the world we’d throw open our doors and arms and embrace those poor Ukrainian refugees. Predictably, this love affair began to cool a bit as month passed month and the guests of the nation showed no sign of leaving. There’s no feeling so galling as having postured as a generous host, then being outed as someone who doesn’t like strangers coming into Irish towns and villages and changing the whole complexion of things. 

What to do? Maybe the south should model itself on Canada. For decades that country has checked what jobs need filled and whether there were Canadians available to fill them. If there’s not, then open the door carefully to immigrants who can.

Do the maths, lads.