Editorial: There’s no war in Clare – that was the attraction
The right to peaceful protest is protected, and so too is the right of international protection applicants to live peacefully.
Having made a point at Magowna House in Inch, Co Clare, local people who are blockading access to and from the proposed location for asylum-seekers should immediately withdraw in favour of a negotiated resolution.
In this newspaper today, one local person argues: “We welcome new people to Ireland. This just isn’t the place for them. It isn’t suitable to be landed in here. There’s no jobs, no shop, nothing to do. What’s here for them?”
At a minimum, there is peaceful sanctuary from the war, strife and the extremely difficult living circumstances from which many of these unfortunate people are fleeing.
Such arguments have become a routine: ‘We welcome refugees, but not here.’ In fact, the authorities had planned to provide a regular shuttle bus service for those taken to Inch, to access whatever services would be required.
The disquieting scenes in Co Clare last week hardly spoke to Ireland’s reputation as a country of a hundred thousand welcomes.
There are further reports that some of the 34 asylum seekers brought to three holiday homes on the site of the disused hotel are now abandoning the location in the face of local opposition and making their way back to Dublin city centre.
As another local person, who welcomes the refugees to Clare, also states today: “It’s better than Sandwith Street, where you could be burned out of a tent.”
This was a reference to the disgraceful scenes in Dublin city centre last week — which saw protesters, agitated by the organised far-right, force asylum-seekers from a makeshift camp. There are currently around 500 such people sleeping rough on the streets.
The overall situation has become very difficult for the authorities to manage. Nearly 100,000 people have been given refuge and shelter in Ireland in the past year, the majority being Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s brutal war of aggression.
In the vast majority of cases, asylum seekers from Ukraine and elsewhere have been accepted into local communities and engagement has gone well. In the context of such extraordinary demand, the Government and society in general has done its best to meet its obligations.
As this newspaper also reports today, the Government is now reconsidering other solutions to the situation which had been previously ruled out, such as the provision of cruise ship vessels, which would seem to be among the least satisfactory outcomes.
Protests against the location of asylum seekers and refugees is being driven by dehumanising discourse online which, as columnist Colin Murphy points out, the authorities here need to do more to counteract.
A strong case can be made that many of those seeking refuge could — and would— be willing to contribute to the country in terms of taking up employment. The Government should consider shortening a delay of six months before refugees are allowed to work.
No country in Western Europe has taken in as many people from Ukraine as Ireland, as a percentage of our population. In time, Ireland should be able to look back with pride at how it embraced those seeking refuge at this traumatic time. A positive contribution would be the lifting of the blockade in Clare.