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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
FactCheck: National Party leader Justin Barrett's claims about immigration
The National Party leader made a series of claims about immigration on the Last Word this week. We checked them out.


THIS WEEK HAS seen the launch of a new political party and the re-emergence of a controversial activist and former election candidate, after several years out of public life.

Justin Barrett, leader of the National Party, conducted his first interview in years on Thursday, when he was invited on to Today FM’s the Last Word.

The interview was unusually full of factual claims, so we decided to do a bit of an overview, especially after readers got in touch with us on Twitter about it.

We’ve chosen the four most substantive and concrete claims made by Barrett during the interview, and will present a tally of verdicts at the end, as we have done previously.

FactCheck asked Justin Barrett for evidence in support of his claims, but he did not respond.

You can download a spreadsheet with all the relevant data, below.

(Send your FactCheck requests to, tweet @TJ_FactCheck, or send us a DM).

Claim 1: Since EU expansion in 2004, there was immigration of 837,000 from Eastern European countries.

…You asked me for a figure of how many people I believed might come from Eastern Europe, prior to the accession countries.
And I said – given the numbers of people that are available to come – we could be talking about half a million to a million…We got 837,000. 837,000, by CSO figures.

The Facts


Before May 2004, the EU had 15 member states. After 2004, the following countries became EU member states, bringing the total to 28.

It is these 13 countries that Barrett is referring to.

1 May 2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia

1 January 2007: Bulgaria, Romania

1 July 2013: Croatia

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has tracked immigration from these 13 countries, as a group, since 2005, under the label “EU15 to EU28 states”. We’ll be referring to them as “EU 15-28 countries”.

As of April 2016, there are now 238,700 citizens of these member states resident in Ireland.

Since 2005, there has been total immigration into Ireland of 292,100 by citizens of these EU 15-28 countries.

This means, even on a literal interpretation, Justin Barrett’s claim “We got 837,000″ is almost three times larger than the reality.

But this doesn’t take into account emigration from Ireland by citizens of these countries, which totals 121,100 since 2005.

This means net inward migration from (roughly speaking) Eastern and Central Europe, has been 171,000almost five times less than Barrett’s figure of 837,000.

The claim is FALSE by a very wide margin.

Claim 2: The same number of immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe into the UK as arrived into Ireland, since 2004

The same number of immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe into the entire UK, with a population of 50 million. About 800,000.

The Facts


For the sake of robust comparison, let’s compare the figures for Ireland and the UK between 2005 and 2015.

(The CSO doesn’t give figures for EU 15-28 countries before 2005, and the UK Office of National Statistics does not give comparable figures for 2016 so far).

Between 2005 and 2015:

  • Ireland saw immigration of 281,400 by citizens of EU 15-28 countries
  • The UK saw immigration of 1,023,000 by citizens of EU 15-28 countries

On a literal interpretation, (“the same number arrived“), the total arrivals into the UK were 3.6 times greater than into Ireland.

  • Ireland saw emigration of 110,400 by citizens of EU 15-28 countries, yielding net inward migration of 171,000.
  • The UK saw emigration of 393,000 by citizens of EU 15-28 countries, yielding net inward migration of 630,000.

This means net inward migration into the UK has been 3.8 times higher than into Ireland.

So whether the claim is evaluated based only on arrivals, or taking into account departures, it is FALSE by a very wide margin.

Claim 3: If, as a share of overall population, the same proportion of EU 15-28 immigrants had arrived in the UK as arrived in Ireland, the UK would have seen immigration of 6.5 million from those countries.

…If they [the UK] had taken, proportionately, the same number [of Eastern European, post-2004 immigrants] as us, they’d have taken 6.5 million.

The Facts


This is a slightly awkward one to calculate, as Barrett’s claim involves counting migration as a proportion of population.

But migration is a measure of change in population, so this is not a calculation you would normally make.

Nonetheless, we calculated total immigration and net immigration into Ireland by EU 15-28 citizens each year between 2005 and 2015.

We then took those figures as a percentage of the overall population each year.

Finally, we applied those percentages to the UK population each year between 2005 and 2015, and found:

  • If total immigration by EU 15-28 citizens, as a share of total population, had been the same in the UK from 2005-2015, as it was in Ireland, the UK would have seen immigration from those countries of 3,909,245
  • If net immigration had been the same in the UK as it was in Ireland, the UK would have seen net immigration of 2,397,137

Both these figures are clearly vastly smaller than the 6.5 million put forward by Justin Barrett. So his claim is FALSE by a wide margin.

However, it is worth noting that these figures are 3.8 times higher than the immigration and net immigration into the UK that actually took place, from these countries.

Which indicates that, in reference to overall population, Ireland did see significantly higher immigration from these countries than the UK did, from 2005-2015.

Claim 4: There is no proper vetting of refugees entering Ireland, including those coming from Syria  

…There’s no proper vetting process for the entry of refugees from Syria, for example.

The Facts

Cyprus Migrants AP / Press Association Images Syrian refugees at a refugee camp in Cyprus. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

In response to a query from FactCheck, the Department of Justice provided the vetting procedures for refugees entering Ireland from various countries, including Syria. The Irish Refugee Protection Programme has two parts:

  • The Irish UNHCR Refugee Resettlement Programme, which has been operating since 2000 and relocated 1,500 people from 27 countries, including Iraq and Syria
  • The EU Relocation Programme, whereby we have committed to taking in 4,000 would-be asylum-seekers, most currently located in Italy and Greece, and some in Lebanon.

Under both strands of our refugee policy, the following vetting and monitoring procedures are in place: Before departure -

  1. The department’s Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration (OPMI) sends a “selection mission” to where the refugees and asylum-seekers are located
  2. The OPMI staff interview “cases” (individuals or families)
  3. In the case of the UN programme, the refugees must have already registered with the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees)
  4. A team from An Garda Síochána conducts similar interviews
  5. Fingerprints are taken and checked against national and international databases
  6. Those selected for relocation to Ireland must first undergo security clearance
  7. Those selected for relocation must then undergo health screening

After arrival, before entering the community

  1. A “resettlement team” from OPMI meets the refugees at the airport/port
  2. The team escorts the refugees to a Resettlement Reception Centre, where they stay for 8-10 weeks
  3. Among other provisions (education, language courses, and so on), the refugees are taken to register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (an agency of the department), where they are issued a Registration Certificate
  4. The refugees are then taken to “receiving communities” (towns and cities across Ireland)

After entering the community

  • OPMI staff personally escort refugees to their first meetings with various public service providers (the Department of Social Protection, and so on).

Justin Barrett’s claim is FALSE.

Of the four claims:

  • All four are FALSE
  • Three are FALSE by a significant margin

To download a spreadsheet containing all the relevant data, click here. / YouTube’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here

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