Balbriggan 'pushed to the edge' claims candidate Sharkey
'Ireland First' is the provocative slogan chosen by well-known artist and Balbriggan resident, Kevin Sharkey as he launched a political campaign in Fingal that will see him run in the next General Election as an independent candidate on what is likely to be a controversial platform, centring on the issue of immigration.
The former television presenter and one of Ireland's most well-known artists lives in Balbriggan said that communities like the one he now lives in are being 'pushed to the edge' by the effects, as he sees it, of immigration.
The outspoken artist who attended school as a child in Balbriggan, recently returned to the town where he has been living for six months and said he was 'shocked' by the changes in the community in that time.
He said: 'Back then I was the only black person in the town and it is quite sobering to see the changes that have happened here so quickly. I know better than most that Irish people are very fair, generous and warm-hearted people but sometimes that is seen as weakness and vulnerability.
'Local people are now bearing the brunt of a social experiment that started in Europe. and a lot of people feel they can't even speak out about it because they will be branded as a racist.'
Mr Sharkey said: 'This is not about race or religion - it is just about the numbers.' He said that local people are finding themselves 'at the back of the queue' when it comes to accessing services and there was nothing wrong with a country looking after its own before it reaches out to others.
The artist said he has been politically motivated all of his life and spoke out against abuses in boys' homes he spent time in and on the issue of equal marriage. He joined Sinn Féin for a time but said he felt he was being used a 'poster boy' for the party and decided the only way to advance his political agenda was as an independent.
As well as immigration control, Mr Sharkey would like to see Ireland reduce its foreign aid and will campaign for a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment on abortion but said that only women should be able to vote in that referendum because 'men have no business deciding what women do with their bodies'.
Above all, he says he wants to start a conversation about immigration and said: 'I believe in fairness and places like Balbriggan are being pushed to the limit. A 10 or 20 per cent increase in any nationality in an area, dissipates the culture and we need an honest and open discussion about this because everyone is terrified to bring it up but there's this drip, drip effect going on and it is beginning to corrode.'
He said that in places like Balbriggan 'good people are being pushed to the limit, and to them it can feel like an invasion'.
Asked if he is prepared to be accused of racism himself for his outspoken views, the Balbriggan artist said: 'Bring it on. There's the stupidity of it. Just because you hold a certain opinion, doesn't mean you don't like black people. I've experienced racism all of my life and I hate racism so they can call me everything under the sun but I won't take a blind bit of notice.'
With a slogan like 'Ireland First' there will be inevitable comparison's with Donald Trump's well-worn 'America First' phrase but it's a comparison that the artist is comfortable with.
He said: 'In the States they have elected a president that said he would look after his country first and he seems to be doing that - and the rest of the world is freaking out about it. But, what is wrong with nationalism? What is wrong with looking after your own?'
He said that his mother in Donegal was happy to distribute any spare food they had to anyone who needed it but she made sure to feed her own family first, and that is the philosophy that has formed his controversial views. 'When was it ever racist to look after your own?' he said.
He argued: 'I just don't think it's fair for people in places like Balbriggan to be asked to assimilate a lot of people who don't share their culture and expect everything to be OK. This is why white people have such a problem talking about this, because they are just shut down and told they are racist. But this is just about numbers and we can't sustain an increase in numbers without serious social problems resulting.' He said he had no problem with controlled immigration if it is 'selective' and 'people are contributing'