‘Ireland Is In Flagrant Dereliction Of Its Duty’



A banner placed on the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin in February, calling for safe routes for people seeking refugee protection

Lecturer in Geography at University College Cork Piaras Mac Éinrí writes:

I don’t want to go into too much detail so as not to identify any parties, but I heard some truly disturbing stories today about the Department of Justice and Law Reform’s handling of such issues as family reunification for Syrian refugees.

A case in point: the woman in Syria who wanted to join her family in Ireland and who was obliged to travel at extraordinary personal danger and expense in order to obtain an identity document for onward travel, only to be informed that it would not be acceptable.

Assurances were given by Frances Fitzgerald, inside and outside the Dáil, that Ireland would be generous about such matters.

The reality is that a paltry number of individuals and families (I think approximately 20 individuals) have been accepted from Lebanese refugee camps in the past several months, while the bigger relocation programme, announced with much fanfare and whereby 4,000 people were to be accepted from overcrowded ‘hot spots’ in Greece and Italy, appears to be completely blocked.

A particular feature of the Department’s current approach seems to be that, even when people are brought in through UNHCR-brokered programmes, it is all done in virtual secrecy.

I met one Syrian family in Mallow a few weeks ago, as I wrote on Facebook at the time, as they had accidentally met up with friends of mine here who had themselves lived in Aleppo.

There are eight Syrian families in Mallow now – there is no security issue, or need for confidentiality, or anything else. Yet it has taken weeks to put them in touch with people who can help them, speak their language, provide them with the most basic assistance.

What is this about, if it is not an obsessive concern with control and an excessive wish to block anyone from civil society from offering help and support?

I have no doubt where much of the fault lies.

In all the changes which have taken place in government (and governance) in this country in the past half-century, one department remains virtually untouched. The Department of Justice has ‘captured’ virtually every minister appointed to it over the decades (I was told today that, for all of his faults, the only exception was Alan Shatter – he initiated a one-off programme of his own for Syrians and the civil servants hated it).

Their securocratic obsessions and slavish subservience to British policy (in the name of protecting the Common Travel Area), as well as their stubborn refusal to engage with other stakeholders, shows that nothing has changed.

My own experience as a civil servant in the 1980s was of dealing with a close-minded, bigoted, sometimes racist and utterly intransigent mindset.

Contrast this with the change in other departments, who now engage actively with other stakeholders – Foreign Affairs and the development policy community are a case in point.

Remember the Hungarians who came in 1956.

They were treated so badly by official Ireland that the vast majority could not wait to move to Canada, a country which offered them a real welcome.

Ironically, the camp where they were (literally) detained, Knockalisheen in Co. Clare is, perhaps not surprisingly, now a Direct Provision Centre. A kind of ‘no-place’ for invisible people.

The Department hasn’t changed since then; as far as I am concerned they have blood on their hands.

But ordinary Ireland has and stands ready to accept refugees in some numbers and make them welcome.

The twin new dangers now are that an absence of government makes ongoing paralysis ever more likely and a possible Brexit will lead to new talk of border controls and craven assurances from our securocrats that even greater care will be taken to prevent ‘undesirables’ from entering this jurisdiction in case they might attempt to use it as a back door to the other place.

I know that the big picture must be addressed and the war must be stopped. This will require greater efforts from the international community than have been evident to date.

In the short term, with Russia pursuing its own agenda, the USA convulsed by the run-up to the presidential elections and an incumbent lame duck and the EU fragmented and divided in several ways, there is little to hope for.

Already there are signs of multiple breaches of the ceasefire supposedly in place.

But, in the meantime, we have a role to play in our own small way and Ireland is in flagrant dereliction of its duty.

Please write to your TDs, if nothing else.

If you have the time and the energy, join an NGO/activist group, tell your students or school pupils about the situation, contribute funds to people providing support.

Syrian refugees in Ireland now (Piaras Mac Éinrí, Facebook)

Thanks Mark Malone

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18 thoughts on “‘Ireland Is In Flagrant Dereliction Of Its Duty’

  1. ahjayzis

    All the tropes about Irish people being welcoming, hard-working, friendly, generous – none of our self proclaimed ‘national character’ is reflected in our governments, of any hue. It’s like they set out to be the c**ts they think we need.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Have you looked at the Journal, or other popular websites recently? It appears that our elected c**ts are genuinely reflective of their electorate. Ugly stuff indeed from a people who expect to be welcomed the world over – because we’re great.

  2. karlj

    What about the Irish homeless stuck in emergency accommodation, on the streets indefinitely?
    Do they compete for the same scarce resource of housing as the homeless Syrian? Yes.

    1. ahjayzis

      They actually compete for money spent on ministerial expenses, expert reports that go nowhere, wildly generous pension bonuses for retiring senior civil servants, corporate tax cuts, tax cuts in general, public sector pay rises, infrastructure spend, Irish Water, the state pension, defence, police, healthcare, research funding, arts funding, higher education, primary and secondary schools, local authority staff, public servants, home help, etc etc etc.

      There’s no “desperate people” budget to fight over, there’s a national budget, it’s not one group of desperate people competing with the other, it’s desperate people ignored while we rescue banks, give Apple a tax cut, etc, etc.

      But by all means carry on, useful idiots will always be with useful.

  3. Stan

    This is only one man’s take on it.

    It doesn’t mean that he is right, it is just based on a political position.

  4. human

    The state has a duty to fulfil to its own people before its starts looking after the rest of the world ….

    1. Cromuel

      Of course Ireland has a duty to its own people. But Human, I wonder if reaching out a hand to help others, whether they’re Irish people or people from elsewhere, is a thing we do well at all?
      According to the post below by Facts, Ireland has taken a total of 250 refugees, not exactly a number to rock the balance of our society.
      We used to be a country where it was considered correct to help our neighbours, and it was considered wrong to allow children to go hungry. How good we were at this is another question, of course, but it was an accepted norm. Now, we read headlines every day saying that one in three children in Ireland are hungry and cold, and we go “Interesting” and turn over to read about Kanye and Taylor Swift. Is this really the society we want?

    1. My Meaty Member

      it’s ‘extraordinaire’

      If you’re going to pettily snipe and disparage it helps to not come across as illiterate

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