Earlier this week, Ireland’s newly installed Taoiseach, Simon Harris, made an outrageous proposal to deploy 100 policemen to control immigration along the border with Northern Ireland. Harris is trying to prevent an influx of immigrants crossing the border before Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport immigrants to Rwanda is implemented.

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that his predecessor Leo Varadkar was stressing to European Union leaders how important it was to avoid a hard border. To make his point Varadkar even went as far as highlighting an old news story about an IRA bomb which went off at a customs post in the 70s, killing nine people. Yet for some reason, the moment it became politically inconvenient to defend the open border, Dublin suddenly changed its tune.

As a former customs officer patrolling the border region in Ireland in the early 2000s, I can attest to the fact that life for everyone is far sweeter without a hard border and customs inspections. In the bad old days of the hard border, customs officers were frequently subjected to physical attacks and threats, with their cars being set on fire outside their homes.

By the time I was a customs officer the hard border had been removed but there was still a lucrative smuggling trade, which officials largely turned a blind eye to. When smugglers were caught they were usually given a token fine that did nothing to deter further lawbreaking. I can say with certainty that if a hard border was implemented the IRA would tear it down and threaten or kill any border guard or policeman implementing the government’s policy.

Eventually, the Taoiseach must have realised his border plan was pie in the sky and that setting up a hard border was completely out of the question. Just hours after dropping his announcement bombshell, he reneged on it, saying police officers would not ‘be assigned to physically police the border with Northern Ireland’. But not before he was given a rollicking from British PM Rishi Sunak, who could hardly believe what Harris was proposing.

Harris, 38, is known in Ireland as the ‘Tik Tok Taoiseach’ because of his large social media following. But as a career politician, he’s brought chaos to every department he’s been in charge of in some way.

He is clearly trying to frighten asylum seekers into thinking they will be pushed back into the UK if they enter the Republic, preventing them from making the journey. Doing this in reality would mean Ireland breaking international law, but a robust approach might play well with the electorate, which is very much fed up with the coalition government’s lax approach to legal migration.

During this crisis Ireland was already allowing inward migration from Ukraine. But when large numbers of people began arriving from outside the EU, public opinion began to turn, and violent demonstrations followed. This forced the government to take action to curtail excessive immigration which is threatening to damage the social fabric of Ireland.

There can’t be any happy ending to the immigration crisis, but there is clearly nothing effective 100 police officers can do. Dublin will not go to war with its closest neighbour and trading partner. And it won’t disregard its international treaty obligations either.

With local elections coming up next week, Harris is clearly pandering to the electorate who blame immigrants for the lack of housing and other social amenities. Seventeen per cent of Ireland’s population are foreign born with almost half of those people arriving in the last five years.

Last week, Dublin’s Justice Minister Helen McEntee told the government’s justice committee over 80 per cent of those seeking asylum in Ireland have now come across the border. Rishi Sunak must be rubbing his hands with glee as Ireland appeared to confirm that his plan to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda is actually working. Hilariously, only one immigrant has yet caught a flight to Rwanda but it seems the threat is stronger than the execution.

Meanwhile, Harris’s posturing boils down to political duplicity. He is clearly trying to square the circle of a fundamentally incoherent border policy – with the border remaining open for everything and everyone but migrants. Let this former border guard tell him: it can’t be done.

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