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Immigration has become ‘top-tier issue’ in Irish politics, says Leo Varadkar

Immigration has “increasingly” become a “top-tier issue” in Irish politics, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar was speaking ahead of a range of elections to be held in Ireland this year.

He announced earlier that local and European elections will be held on Friday June 7 while speculation remains that a general election could be called later in the year.

However, the coalition government comprising Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael, along with Fianna Fail and the Green Party, can remain until spring 2025.

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media at the Salamander Hotel, in Washington, DC, during his visit to the US for St Patrick’s Day (Niall Carson/PA)

Earlier, when asked by journalists when the next general election would be, Mr Varadkar said: “No time soon, anyway.”

Speaking at an event with president of the US Chamber of Commerce Suzanne Clark, Mr Varadkar said the coalition is “very strong”, adding the three party leaders are “generally able to sort out any disputes”.

In terms of the issues ahead of elections, Mr Varadkar said migration is “increasingly” becoming a big part of politics.

“In terms of the public’s concerns, certainly the cost-of-living crisis is a big issue here as well, the housing shortage, concerns around law and order, increasingly migration is a big part of our politics, hadn’t been previously. Now it’s definitely a top-tier issue or a top-three issue,” he said.

“So they’re the things that are on people’s minds and of course, therefore they’re on politicians’ minds.”

He said most of the problems Ireland faces are part of “bigger global megatrends”, such as Brexit, the pandemic, energy crisis, inflation and migration.

“These are actually not problems that were created in Ireland or can be solved in Ireland alone,” he said.

“They’re part of bigger things that are happening in the world and we have to understand that a lot of the solutions to the problems that we see in our day-to-day lives in Ireland, or here in America, require multilateral solutions and require global solutions, and it can be hard to explain that sometimes.

“Even take the issue of migration again, a huge issue now in our politics. There isn’t a particular thing that Ireland can do, or America can do at home, to resolve some of the issues because so much of it is driven by global challenges, whether it’s climate, whether it’s war, whether it’s a lack of economic opportunity and freedom for huge numbers of people in the world.

“It’s that that pushes migration, huge numbers, not necessarily things that we do.”

Mr Varadkar’s comments come after the Government suffered two massive defeats in last week’s referenda results.

Earlier he said: “The next elections will be the local and European elections and the Limerick mayor elections on the seventh of June.

“No date in mind for the general election.”

The coalition could run into February next year, allowing for an election to be called as late as March 2025.