‘Who Is “We”? What Constituency Do You Represent?’



The panel on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne

Last night.

On TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne.

The panel was comprised of Syrian lawyer and Dublin restaurant owner Ghandi Mallak, Irish human rights activist and documentary maker Caoimhe Butterly, legal advisor to the Irish Refugee Council Maria Hennessy, and Áine Ní Chonaill, who founded the Immigration Control Platform party in Ennis, Co Clare in 1998.

The panel discussed the war in Syria; the 9 million Syrians who have been displaced – around 5 million within Syria and 4 million who have fled the country; and how, last year, 1.3 million people seeking refuge, not just from Syria, came to Europe, which has a population of 500 million.

A clip from Ms Butterly’s award-winning documentary, The Border, was shown in which two teachers from Aleppo spoke to her from a makeshift refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at the beginning of this year.

While introducing it, Ms Butterly said:

“Although this clip focuses on these two Syrian women, these two survivors, I think it’s important also to widen the frame, in terms of migration, out past Syria and not just to exceptionalise the Syrian experience because, horrific as it is, there are people seeking refuge from Congo, from Eritrea, from Afghanistan, from Mali, from multiple other contexts. And conflict is only one one frame with which to view this. There’s also, as you know, climate change and resource grabbing and sectarian persecution, etc. So I think to have a more nuanced understanding of, you know, the determinants of forced migration and to recognise that this is a new reality that the EU has to deal with in a less myopic way and a more human way.”

After the clip, Mr Browne asked Ms Ni Chonaill if, on a humanitarian level, Europe should welcome more refugees – given that countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey have taken the greatest numbers of Syrian refugees and, more importantly, given that Europe had a part of play in the political unrest in some of the countries from which people are fleeing.

During her response, Ms Ni Chonaill said people who left Syria and entered Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey had “already fled the bombs and bullets” and were only moving on for economic reasons.

She said: “Europe has had enough of this.”

From the discussion following this…

Caoimhe Butterly: “I’d just like to respond. I mean, I think for a lot of us who are engaged in refugee solidarity and migrant justice work, or work with the undocumented and with asylum seekers in direct provision, living through the unjust direct provision in Ireland, the xenophobic discourse we’ve just heard, is nothing new to us. I have to say, at this stage, I think we’re all quite used to it, I think to the inhumanity of it, to the complete lack of empathy of it, to the other-ing, and to the selfishness of it ultimately. I think of an approach which prioritises, you know, really excluding those who have every right to seek refuge and lives of dignity in our homes. But, while listening to that, I’m just, I’m back from Calais a couple of days and all I could think of are the families, the women, the men and the children there, of such deep dignity and integrity and bravery, you know, who have risked so much to build lives of safety and I think it’s just a profound shame that this discourse is, you know, given time, that it’s given space…”

Aine Ni Chonaill: “Just listen to that now. What a democracy we live in…”

Butterly: “It’s not about censoring..”

Ni Chonaill:Those who oppose you must not be heard?

Butterly:It’s not about silencing, it’s about widening that window of empathy and actually looking at the consequences of…”

Ni Chonaill: “You just said the discourse shouldn’t take place.”

Butterly: “…of responsibility. No, I think a discussion in which the lives of people who are condemned to death by these policies, at sea and in the backs of airless refrigerated trucks will be continued to be condemned to death by that lack of empathy. I just find it deeply sad and I really wish that those who hold these opinions could go and see, and interact, with these people and listen to their stories.”

Ni Chonaill: “I, particularly since Caoimhe has mentioned Calais, the people in Calais are in a safe country, France, but they have the brazen unadulterated cheek to say, ‘oh that won’t do, it’s got to be Britain. Nowhere else will do us. We’re going to Britain.”

Butterly: “They have families, they come from post-colonial contexts in which they speak English.”

Ni Chonaill: “Oh how, they speak English. ‘Oh I’m not going to go to the trouble to speak French. I’m going to Britain.’ They are in safe country and they have the brazen cheek, backed up by idiots like yourself, to say it’s got to be Britain.”

Maria Hennessy: “They actually have legal rights that aren’t being respected, under the Dublin Regulation, in order to be able to arrive in the UK because they have family members.”

Ni Chonaill: “And they only have to go through the asylum process in France and I’m quite sure that they can communicate with Britain..

Talk over each other

Ni Chonaill: “The right of family reunification is the right of the people in Britain to say ‘I want my relative in Calais to come’, it isn’t actually, I think you being a lawyer, will know that. It isn’t the right of the person in Calais to say ‘I want…'”

Hennessy: “I think you’re confusing now, we’re talking about family reunion under the Dublin Regulation…”

Ni Chonaill: “So am I…”

Hennessy: “…which happens before you’re through an asylum procedure. Well you’re incorrectly quoting it there when you talk about it because…”

Ni Chonaill: “Well I’ll stick to what I’m correct about. They have a brazen cheek to say ‘I’m in France but France won’t do’.

Hennessy: “They have a right to be reunited with their family members. You have to remember about the principle of family unity within the right to seek asylum with your family members.”

Ni Chonaill: “I consider Britain a decent country and I’m happy for them to do their regulations.”

Vincent Browne:Do you not feel there’s some obligation on the part of us, as members of the human race, to assist people who are in dire straits, such as the people in Syria, such as the people in parts of Africa, such as the people in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and elsewhere and that we should do our bit to assist those people.”

Ni Chonaill:No, and on and on and on with your list. And, as Caoimhe said, it was very interesting to listen to her, we must not exceptionalise Syria, neither must we, we must think of all these others ones, including the climate change and she seemed to imply the economic difficulties as well. It is neverending. And the rights you talk about…”

Browne: “I didn’t talk abut rights.”

Ni Chonaill: “No, no, no, sorry…”

Talk over each other

Ni Chonaill: “This right to asylum. Well, really, it’s too much to go into this evening but the Geneva Convention that was set up in 1951 said, and these people know that, it said this applied, I’m putting lay language into it, this applied to, it was a mopping up operation, after world war two, this applied to people displaced after world war two. It applied to nobody else and no other circumstance and in 1967 with the New York protocol, because of the Cold War, and having no idea what was coming down the line in the future, they stupidly expanded it and both of, they never, ever, ever would have signed it, the countries of the west, if they knew what it would mean.”

Browne: “Ok, Maria wants to come in…”

Ni Chonaill: “And there’s an opt-out clause in both of them.”

Browne: “Maria..”

Hennessy: “I just hope you never have to flee conflict..”

Butterly: “I was just thinking the same thing..”

Hennessy:I really, really hope that you never do because it’s such an inhumane response. I just can’t believe it. It’s truly shocking.”

Ni Chonaill:Never mind the playing the man, not the ball, stick to the policies..”

Browne:You’ve been playing the man, you called them stupid a few minutes ago.”

Hennessy: “Okay, so we have our international legal framework within the Geneva Convention, as correct, you referred to the 1967 protocol as well. We’re also part of a Common European Asylum System. And, as part of the Common European Asylum System, we’ve signed up to a number of obligations under the charter of human rights…”

Ni Chonaill: “Which my organisation opposed precisely for this reason…”

Hennessy: “Well, we’re a member of the European Union, we’re part of the Common European Asylum System. Ireland is one of the main, when we talk about the Dublin Regulation, it’s always been signed under the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union…”

Ni Chonaill: “So what..”

Hennessy: “So we have opted into that Common European Asylum System, it is grounded in international human rights..”

Ni Chonaill: “We have done all these foolish things, yes..”

Hennessy: “…in many ways, but not in all ways. And you just really need to look at the right to asylum being really being guaranteed in practice as well as in law. And I just really hope that you never are in the situation where you have to flee your home.”

Ni Chonaill: “The Geneva Convention should have never been interfered with. It should have been what it said, purely as a mopping up operation after world war two. And both of those things, the convention and the New York protocol have an opt-out clause. Of course the EU would be a different kettle of fish but any country that signed up, as we did in, I think it was [19]54 whatever, every country can give a 12 months’ notice and withdraw from it and if we’d any cop on, that’s what all the countries of the west would be doing.”

Butterly:Who is we? What constituency do you represent? I mean, really, who is we? Because I would say that there is a deep core of empathy and humanity and compassion in Ireland and I’ve seen that on so many expressions, from the grassroots up and I really hope that, that you can bear witness to some of that, whether it’s on the ground in camps or face to face with people who are prioritising empathy. We can go into policy but I think the core of this is having the basic humanity and decency to see people in times of need and to do the right thing by them.”

Ni Chonaill: “There will be no end to times of need. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea. And on and on and on.”

Watch back in full here

71 thoughts on “‘Who Is “We”? What Constituency Do You Represent?’

  1. Eamonn Clancy

    Aine says what we think privately, the rest say what we want our friend to think we believe.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      You may have an ugly, blackhearted attitude to “brazen” foreigners. Don’t tar us with your bigoted brush.

  2. Starina

    that ni chonaill one really loves the phrase “brazen cheek” – it betrays the level of impatient hatred she feels towards refugees. you xan bet your bottom dollar that if she became a refugee she’d want to go somewhere where she spoke the language. puts me in mind of Dolores Umbridge

  3. Tony

    Aine is a troll and well done to Vinny for getting her on. Butterly has gone all American and drowned in buzz words and compassion. I preferred her when she was just Caoimhe.

  4. DubLoony

    Where did they dig Ui Chonaill from?
    ICP has never had a public AGM, no published number of members. Its a name just to give legitimacy to her own very anti-immigrant views. Its not just refugees and asylum seekers, she regards any immigrant from anywhere a diluting Irish culture.
    She ran in Dublin South-Central in 2002. Population over 100,000 and got 926 votes.
    I remember the alarm her leaflets caused some African neighbours.

        1. dan

          It’s a typical response because it’s a typical crazy person comment. It has no content worth engaging with.

        1. dan

          It’s very obviously the American Right strategy, but it’s almost like satire when Soros gets mentioned..

          1. mildred st. meadowlark

            You know, we could play a drinking game with BS buzz words.

            Every time someone mentions Soros, REDACTED, conspiracy, LJG etc etc take a drink. I’m open to suggestions.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      They’ve moved on from Chuck Feeney being the rich bogeyman sponsoring “left wing” causes like equality and stuff because he’s an Irish citizen. Soros is a Jew and we all know how much right wingers dislike Jews!

      1. Ross

        I think you’ll find it’s the left that don’t like Jews. Corbyn’s labour being a prime example of it.

  5. human

    Butterly who has Stockholm syndrome represents literally 0.000001% of the population if even that……

  6. ZeligIsJaded

    Truly sickening to think she had contact with young impressionable minds as a school teacher.

    Despicable cretin.

  7. Clampers Outside!

    Ni Chonaill is there to make the rest of them look sensible. Ni Chonaill is a tool, imo.

    We need to help, yes. Do we need to do what Germany and Sweden have done, absolutely not.

    Here, for anyone to have a look at are the stats on refugee ‘sea arrivals’ since 1st Jan 2016 from the UNHCR – http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/regional.php – Mostly men which is not what is heard in the media.

    Prior to 2016 it was a lot worse in the surge that went to Germany last year, the ‘sea arrivals’ were split 51% Syrian and 49% from everywhere else. And of the ‘everywhere else’ (my phrase) cohort, 72% were men. More on that on FactCheck.org which did a good job of dismantling the way hard right groups were using the facts… thing is, I don’t believe they needed to fupp with the facts.
    FactCheck.org – http://www.factcheck.org/2015/09/stretching-facts-on-syrian-refugees/ This also gives a breakdown of the Syrian arrivals which is more close to 50:50 (50.5% female).

    Now, I’m certainly not saying “keep ’em out”, all of ’em as that Ni Chonaill would. All I’d like is a controlled entry, not a flood gate like the disaster that was Germany and Sweden. And no, I don’t know how to do it, what I’m saying is we need to look at this properly, the EU does… as the current attitude wanting to ‘policy’ to open up the gates is not going to work in the long run.

    But you’ll never get a discussion with two hot heads at the table, one overly emotional and passionate, the other… well, is Ni Chonaill….

    We need an adult conversation on this, not bickering like that on VinB

      1. Maire

        @clampers outside Well said! The earlier YouTube clips of the migrants throwing food on the train tracks given to them by Red Cross and other charitable organisations was disgraceful Mostly young men! Where were all the women? . I absolutely feel for the real migrants fleeing war. We really could do more. Its saddens me to see young children fending for themselves in these refugee camps.I think that controlled migration is needed. Urgently!

        1. Barry the Hatchet

          Those videos were widely reported completely out of context and subsequently debunked. The people distributing the food were not Red Cross, they were Hungarian police. The Hungarian police force itself posted the video as a propaganda exercise. The police stopped a train destined for Austria and tried to force the passengers to go to a “reception centre” in Hungary to prevent them from travelling, despite the fact that passengers had paid to make the journey to Austria. There was a stand-off that went on for several days. The police handed out food and water. Many refugees refused it on principle and also due (apparently) to concerns that there could be sedatives in the water.

          Young men have as much right to flee conflict and to seek a better life for themselves as anyone else. They are also more mobile than anyone else.

          1. Clampers Outside!

            True, the train issue in Hungary was in the big rush to Germany in 2015. Sad but true, and continues today.
            Of course, young men flee too. But these young men need a lot of de-indoctrination from a lifetime of culture that treats non-Muslim women as below even second class citizens, and worse, like pieces of meat for sex.
            For this reason alone, as evidenced in the problems in Germany and Sweden, there must be a control of some sort…. what the answer is, I don’t know…..

            Political correctness needs to be shown the door as it is preventing discussion on innate cultural differences that needs to be had about Islam.
            I’m sure some will call this, an extreme example, well yes, of course it is, and it illustrates this particular problem well – The paedophilia of 1,400 girls, mostly non-Muslim, over years in Rotherham was a disaster of cultural immigrant management, and a desire not to offend.

            In Pakistan paedophilia can be quite open, and I’m not talking just young girls but boys too. These are ‘cultural’ issues, informed partly by Islam (watch the documentary for why), that sees paedophilia carried out in the open. It makes the Irish situation look like a day out in Disney. A recommended watch on the problem in Pakistan is the 2014 doc ‘Pakistan’s Hidden Shame’….. It had me squirming and reviling in my seat http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4173938/ – Can be found on youtube, makes for some very uncomfortable viewing as includes interviews with confirmed multiple rapist / paedophiles.

            To be clear, no, I’m not saying all male refugees are like this ( I’ve traveled in Muslim countries including Tunisia, Morocco and Muslim areas of India and have had some time in Kashmir, and I enjoyed each trip and the people I met), so, what I am saying is, we do need to control refugee admissions for the cultural differences, and other cultural norms and undesirable elements of other cultures, those cultures have turned a blind eye to, that jar with western cultural openness and secularism.

            I’d rather go expensive and slow, than open flood gates. That means there needs to be something done in a region nearer the conflict…
            Look, I don’t have the answer. All I know is we cannot do what Germany and Sweden did…. and we do need controls.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            That reads like I have said the Rotheram issue was a problem of political correctness. Not my intention, PC was only a small part of that problem. Integral, but a small part of the issue.

    1. DubLoony

      There does need to be more organisation at points of departure & swift registration, humane treatment at point of reception.
      Yes, there are men escaping. Frequently trying to avoid being conscripted in some faction or other, or avoiding being killed. Or getting out the hard way first, applying for asylum followed by family reunification so that their families can join them by taking a plane rather than risking lives in a boat.

      Am so disappointed on EU response. We know this story of trying to escape war. We should be better than this, and a hell of a lot more organised.

  8. Tony

    I actually heard Caoimhe using the word “othering”. Is that even a thing? Some trigger-free workshop nonsense. Where are Don and Nigel when I need schooling???

    1. Nigel

      It’s okay, you can cuddle up to the racist troll who liked to used the phrase ‘brazen cheek’ if that’s more your style.

        1. AtNigel

          Which other? The others or the other others or the other brothers who bother the other mothers when they get their druthers?

    2. ReproBertie

      Yes “othering” is a thing. It’s always been a part of the human thought process. It’s just a term for the process of creating a them and us scenario.

      1. Tony

        You mean like accepting there are differences between people? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Surely respecting that people are different is an important part of any assessment of a situation.

        1. ReproBertie

          No, it’s nothing like that. It has nothing to do with respecting differences. It’s the process of mentally making someone not like us so that we can, for example, commit a crime against them or discriminate against them or go to war with them.

          1. Tony

            Like Isis do to the west then. Or like people do to Christians in the Middle East and Palestinians in Israel. Actually like both sides of the abortion debate do to each other.

          2. ReproBertie

            Yes, exactly. As I said it’s always been a part of human thought process. Humans are tribal. Part of being a tribe is knowing who’s not in the tribe and that’s where othering comes in.

        2. mildred st. meadowlark

          A good example of othering is slavery in the US. The plantation owners saw their slaves as ‘other’, and by doing so dehumanising them, meaning the awful treatment often meted out to slaves was justified to them, because they considered their slaves to be less human, less intelligent, less feeling than them.

          1. Tony

            Like jungs shadow. What the Brits did to the Irish. Dehumanising and then justifying their actions as civilising.

    3. Gorev Mahagut

      There are two kinds of people in the world. One the one hand, you have those for whom “othering” is the integral dis-integration, the separation of dualities which forms the sine qua non of dialectic. And on the other hand, you have all the others.

  9. Terry Pratchett's Ghost

    “It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.”

  10. Friscondo

    Uni Chonnail is a hateful nobody. You can just imagine the mouth breathers like Eamon sitting at home with hard ons because at last they get to hear their sordid secret thoughts on TV. PK had that bigot, some of whose comments are incitement to murder, Katie Price, on the radio the other day. These attention seekers shouldn’t be given oxygen of publicity. They’re contribute nothing.

    1. Neilo

      On one paw, you describe people with an opinion you differ with as hateful, or positively tumescent with excitement at the thought of suffering. On the other, you seek to curtail their freedom to air views that you find repugnant. Are their contributions to be limited solely to a weltanschauung you endorse? If so, you don’t strike me as an ally of personal liberty.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        No he says a person with a hateful opinion is hateful. You and your rwcist brethren do not have a right to be respected for your hate. Suck it up, snowflake.

  11. mildred st. meadowlark

    I watched this last night. Uí Connaill was breathtakingly horrible to listen to. The hatred in her voice was palpable.

      1. Tony

        OOops, I presume it is ok to call her shrill cos she is “other”? I think Im getting the hang of this!

        1. mildred st. meadowlark

          We’ll be taking the training wheels off any day now, I’d say.

          And she most certainly was grating. It doesn’t make her ‘other’ though, it simply makes her shrill.

  12. Turgenev

    Immigration Control Platform? Eoin O’Duffy will be rising from the grave and saluting that one!
    What will be our attitude when climate change makes Ireland uninhabitable and Irish people are fleeing south to Africa, hoping for decent charitable people there to let us live and work with them?

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      It’s different when we do it. We’re Irish, everybody loves us cos we’re great craic. It also helps that we’re white.

    2. Ross

      It’ll actually be the other way around since Ireland has a temperate climate at the moment. Africa doesn’t have much room to manoeuvre temperature-wise.

  13. Clampers Outside!

    “Who is we? What constituency do you represent? I mean, really, who is we?”

    The same question could be asked of Ms Butterly too, in fairness. The gates would be wide open if she was speaking in the royal “we” and had her way… and we’d all be fupped.

    This is why “we” need to have more discussion on this. To stop the loolas like Ni Chonaill, and keep a reign on the like of Butterly from going too far. We need practical questions, with well thought out answers, not quick fix emotionally driven virtue signalling like Germany and Sweden did so disastrously.

  14. Gion Gion

    On the one hand: It beggars belief at the number of idiots who cannot comprehend that Ni Chonaill using the word “we” was referring to the govt of the day.
    On the other hand: It demonstrates the low level of debate in Ireland, dominated by conditioning to trigger words and phrases to deploy distracting responses of faux-rage

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