- 10 Dec 22
"We need to ensure that innate decency prevails over the hostility of bigots"
We have to keep mentioning it: the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has seen a huge displacement of Ukrainian citizens, with tens of millions being driven out of their homes during 2022. Many have been forced to leave Ukraine, travelling to different parts of Europe in the hope of finding shelter. Ireland has, rightly, welcomed a large number of Ukrainian asylum seekers and refugees.
As a result, however, a system that was already under strain is now creaking badly. During the year, there were occasions when new arrivals had to be kept overnight in Dublin Airport. Fresh, often temporary, accommodation is being created on the hoof.
Refugees, arriving here from other parts of the world, have also been affected – with some being forced to live in tents for over three months – underlining the fact that Ireland has not dealt well with migration from Africa and the Levant. While it is Government policy that the discredited system of direct provision must be brought to an end, it is hard to see that happening fully while housing and accommodation are in such disastrously short supply.
Ironies abound. Refugees who are granted the visas necessary to stay, live and work here make a huge contribution to Irish society. But that process has been far too slow-moving, bureaucratic and exclusionary. Predictably, the fact that there is already a housing crisis – and a level of homelessness that is totally unacceptable – has been used by racists to stir up anti-migrant emotions.
There has been a rise in far-right rhetoric in Ireland, with some fringe nasties attempting to spread the utterly unsubstantiated ‘replacement’ myth – and the mad notion that ‘native Irish’ (read: white) people are being ‘pushed out’.
It is telling that these deeply unpleasant hate-mongers were prominent in the protests that took place recently in East Wall, Dublin, when a former ESB building was used to house around 80 male asylum seekers. While complaints about a lack of consultation with locals might normally have some validity, the inescapable reality is that there is a major humanitarian crisis ongoing worldwide, and the Department of Integration here frequently does not have the luxury of time in arriving at decisions. Many locals have now wisely distanced themselves from the protests – though the diehard racists involved are unlikely to let it go, with one organiser threatening that further demonstrations will “bring this city to a standstill.”
We’ll see. As a nation of (e)migrants, who are proud of the size and influence of the Irish diaspora, Irish people tend to be sympathetic to those who are fleeing war, oppression and bloodshed, or looking for a better life.
In Fermoy recently, there was a small, hostile protest outside an accommodation centre in the town, where 66 recently-arrived international protection (IP) applicants are staying. That was followed by a counter-demonstration, with over 300 people gathering, in the north Cork town, in support of refugees and asylum seekers...
The lesson? We need to work very hard to ensure that the innate decency of the majority of Irish people prevails over the hostility and aggression of the bigots.
Read the full Hog in the new annual issue of Hot Press, out now.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 01 Mar 22