By Patrick Brogan
Ireland has a long history of migration. The Irish went around the world looking for asylum and economic opportunities. The greeting the Irish received across the world was mixed, as to be expected. The welcome nowadays is generally better than it was in the past. Given our track record, Ireland should be more understanding of other peoples’ plight, but successive governments have a poor track record in this regard.
We have all seen the carnage that has taken place in Syria. Most of us look on and hope we can do something. There is an element of despair as we are faced with such overwhelming helplessness. Ideally, as a nation, we should have come together and stopped the conditions that created this war. Or at least, our Government should have condemned them. The US-led invasion of Iraq is the main cause. As we have seen, Ireland is complicit in this never ending war. So, the inhabitants of Leinster House seem highly unlikely to criticise the American war efforts. Also, the ship has already sailed, any objection now would seem pointless. Another way we could help the Syrian people is to set up and fund the framework to rebuild Syrian society. The problem with this root of action is the war would have to be over before this can start. The war seems unlikely to end anytime soon.
This leaves us with the third option. Offering asylum. Before the anti-immigration bandwagon starts; I am aware that there is a possibility of rogue Islamic fundamentalists entering the country. What I am suggesting is a monitored and screened asylum process, unlike Merkel’s aggressively altruistic and misguided attempts at single-handedly solving the crisis.
The other day, I read about how a town in County Donegal is happily going to house 12 families. According to the latest statement on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission‘s website, from April last year, it says Ireland is going to reassess “its current commitment of 4,000 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, agreed in 2015”, a solution to a crisis it states “as [the] greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War”. 4,000 refugees. According to the UN, there are 4.7 million refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War. Ireland needs to pull up its socks. For the most part, it is the poorer neighbouring countries taking up most of the slack.
Ireland and the Jews
And this inertia in relation to those desperately seeking help is not new. This nation’s response towards the Jewish people being massacred on an industrial scale is deplorable. Treblinka, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and beyond. The Jews suffered, and Ireland, a nation that can draw parallels with their historic suffering did little to help. Irish Jews were even murdered in these camps. This had led to politicians like Alan Shatter, himself Jewish, to condemn the State’s actions for doing nothing and Michael McDowell claiming the response was “antipathetic, hostile and unfeeling”. Indeed, the actions in post-war years were not much better. This also extends to the disabled and Gypsy people that were persecuted.
We can look back this and say Ireland was a neutral country and it was just upholding this stance. This is not good enough. Ireland could have remained neutral and offered support to those suffering. Ireland is supposedly a neutral country now and yet it helps in humanitarian operations continuously. Also, Ireland was certainly backing Britain during World War II. Irish weather reports were vital to the Allied assault, particularly the planning of the D-Day landings.
Ireland’s role is not to solve the crisis, but, at the very least it can take a central role in diplomacy and humanitarian aid. Ireland could not possibly take all the refugees as it would double the population, but we could take in enough and show the way and if needs be, shame larger nations into action. These are human beings at the end of the day. Ireland should understand their suffering more than most. Peter Capaldi said it better than I ever could; take a look at this video.
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