Anne Marie McNally: The New ‘Maggies’


Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan with asylum seekers Anna (left) and Olugide with her baby Gloria at a Christmas Party last year in the Montague Direct Provision Centre for Refugees in County Laois; Anne Marie McNally

This week I watched with admiration and respect at the women who finally felt they had their voices heard and the horrors of their earlier years acknowledged. The women who arrived not just from around the country but from around the globe, returned here to put faces to the horrors, to have their personal stories heard and to see people take to the streets to cheer them.

I had a dinner party recently and of six people around the table, five of us had tales to tell of direct family connections to the laundries or a mother and baby home. This is not something that happened long ago or ‘to others’ this is something that is very recent, very real and very raw.

Those of us who tuned into PrimeTime or who lined Dawson Street to cheer the women as they entered the Mansion House did so because what those women endured deserves not only to be apologised for but to be aired and aired repeatedly because the most important element of all their bravery is that in telling their tales of horrors they can ensure that we, as a State, never make the same mistake again.

Of never outsourcing responsibility, never perpetuating a culture of false shame or degradation, and never again institutionalising innocent people under the guise of a social service

But if that lesson has indeed been learned and we feel so righteous in our ability to look back and wag a knowing finger at how horrific that system of institutionalisation was, why then do we currently ignore the fact that we are, right now in this Ireland that honoured Magdalenes, continue to warehouse men women and children in horrendous conditions and degrade those people as if they are somehow less than?

That is not hyperbolic in the slightest. At the last official count we currently had 5,096 people living in Direct Provision centres across this State and 1,420 of those were children and 104 are people older than 56 years of age.

That is 5,096 people forced to survive on an allowance of €21.60 per week. (This amount is payable to every adult and every child in Direct Provision).

Even if you ignore the economic unfairness of expecting someone to survive on the guts of twenty quid a week, the ignominy of how these people are forced to live is a stain on our collective conscience. While some centres have self-catering facilities, many don’t and residents are forced to endure canteen food handed to them thus removing any element of personal choice.

Imagine not being able to choose what you or your children eat or having zero control over the nutrition of your children; how utterly dehumanising.

And that is what Direct Provision has succeeded in doing; dehumanising people in the eyes of the rest of us.

The out of town locations, the misinformation that is spread regarding what residents get and their ‘entitlements’ and a general toxic attitude of ‘isn’t it better than what they came from’ have all conspired to dehumanise and ostracise residents of Direct Provision and has given us the balm to salve a conscience that deep down knows we should be demanding an immediate end to the barbaric system.

Direct Provision was initially supposed to be for a six month period while people’s applications for asylum were processed. The current average time spent in Direct Provision is 23 months but of that ‘average’ some were up to 5 years in the system.

A lengthy prison sentence for daring to escape whatever horrors existed in their home country and for the audacity of trying to create a safer future for themselves and their children. Imagine.

And even now with asylum seekers recently having been granted the Right to Work, the ignominy continues and possibly deepens because yet again, in an attempt to turn a blind eye, many now say: “but sure they can get a job now and support themselves.”

While it is welcome that people have been granted the right to work it is important to understand the strict restrictions that go along with that right.

If you are an asylum seeker the work permit alone will cost between €500 to €1000.

But the real stinger here is this – applicants must find a job with a starting salary of €30,000 and there are over 60 sectors that the job cannot be in including construction and hospitality.

Given that the average graduate starting salary in Ireland is around €28,000, you’d be doing pretty well as an asylum seeker to be finding a job paying a minimum of €30,000.

The perception of what asylum seekers can do for themselves is very far from the reality and they suffer abuse, vitriol, humiliation and State-sponsored institutionalisation as a result.

So yes, Dublin did indeed ‘honour Magdalenes’ and rightly so, but unless we act now, we cannot celebrate a lesson learned. Instead we should reflect on the hypocrisy of it all.

Anne Marie McNally is Social Democrats Political Director and General Election candidate for Dublin Mid-West.


23 thoughts on “Anne Marie McNally: The New ‘Maggies’

  1. Johnny Keenan

    Spot on Ann Marie.
    Irish government Hypocrisy how you have once again forsaken thee

  2. Joe Small

    I know Direct Provision isn’t popular but its an improvement of what was before it and offers, shelter, food and safety to some very vulnerable people. My main problem with it is the sheer number of years people are left in those centres. That’s the worst part.

      1. ralph

        Bit like the passports
        Listening to Joe Duffy today and people going out of their minds with the worry that they cannot go on holiday without passport
        A new system must be introduced and if a person is rejected they can apply outside the state
        The legal system has made billions out of this and the people in, limbo
        Otherwise serious problems ahead as everything will collapse
        Maybe just let those out of direct provision and include them in the numbers in the annual quota allowed in and start afresh
        Lets face it the taxpayer can just suck it up
        They can then compete with the population for housing on a level playing pitch, but they should not be allowed to bring in family members without going through the motions of non citizens applying for family members to enter Ireland which should be based on skills

          1. ralph

            I suppose your solution is?
            You remind me of the 2 auld fella’s in the Muppets
            All they can do is poo poo

  3. GenerationScrewed

    Why does it take so long to process people?
    Can they not prove where they actually are from and there’s a suspicion they are not genuine asylum seekers and it results in a multitude of appeals or are is it plain old bureaucracy taking so long?

    1. Cian

      The numbers are difficult to interpret – but it looks like people that are coming from certain countries (like Syria) and seeing asylum are processed quickly, and are allowed to stay. People that come from other countries (where there isn’t a major civil war) and are seeking asylum take longer – but it may be that they are processed quickly, but they then appeal – and the appeal process slows thing down. and if the first appeal fails, they can appeal again,… and again.

      1. Cian

        From the 2016 Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner’s report:

        I found this:
        “Due to limited staff resources, the median processing time for prioritised cases in 2016 increased to 16 weeks from 10.8 weeks in 2015. The remaining asylum applications were processed within a median processing time of 41 weeks as compared to just over 29 weeks in 2015. However with new staff coming on board in Q4 2016 and a number of other strategies put in place, the vast majority of cases that had been interviewed during 2016 were completed.”

        And Albania comes 3rd for refugees with over 220 in 2016! Why are Albanian’s claiming refugee status?

        The overall grant rate for cases at first instance was over 16% in 2016.$File/Summary%20Report%20of%20Key%20Developments%20in%202016.pdf

          1. Rob_G

            Instead of just posting a link to a lengthy report, perhaps you could quote the part that you feel is relevant to the discussion(?)

          2. Rob_G

            Thank you for yet another link, johnny.

            All this tells is that migrants come to the EU (which I had an idea might be the case already); I am still not sure what this link has to do with the processing time for asylum seekers in this country.

          3. johnny

            they have this marvelous thingy in reports Rob,called a Table of Contents,go figure,its like a shortcut,in the report linked there’s these part’s called:



            how bout you actually read them,instead boring me with your pedantic nonsense and NON contribution-zzzzzzz

          4. johnny

            thanks Rob for all the attention today,the link was for Cian,im touched by it all this, but its kinda getting a bit weird and creepy the stalking at this point….
            but carry on if its helping you,try to get over being called out for making things up,let it go Rob,let it go man be free :)

          5. johnny

            hi Cian-i appreciate that you make an effort to source and share interesting links/things on here,this is clearly NOT an area of mine,but the ERSI paper is current and i also had a read off it,you were looking for some numbers,Eurostat has them.
            10% being Albanian-haven’t a clue why-some commentators suggest that the Serbs stripped the fleeing refugees from Kosovo of their papers,others point to a large mobile Albanian Roma population and kids born ‘stateless’ to these…

  4. Jake38

    .”………………..That is 5,096 people forced to survive on an allowance of €21.60 per week….

    Even if you ignore the economic unfairness of expecting someone to survive on the guts of twenty quid a week….”

    This is a total misrepresentation of the facts.

    Accomodation, food, health care etc are all provided free of charge by the taxpayer.

  5. johnny

    “why then do we currently ignore the fact that we are, right now in this Ireland that honoured Magdalenes, continue to warehouse men women and children in horrendous conditions and degrade those people as if they are somehow less than?”

    when you say “WE” i take it that includes the Social Democrats and you as Political Director ?

    without any solutions,proposed you may be accused by some of being a shrill!

    perhaps i’m simply not looking in the right section…..

    1. ralph

      If you allow anyone in to a country without ID or a visa you are inviting disaster
      The problem with direct provision is a massive industry has grown out of it
      The solution is not opening the door
      The solution is the manner in which appeals are conducted
      Anyone that arrives without ID must be refused
      Meantime just stop the appeals and grant all in direct provision special status to live here but no right to bring in relatives.
      Once the backlog has been cleared a more rigid system brought in allowing only one appeal
      If that fails immediate deportation.

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