Chaotic Govt policy should not diminish Christian welcome to migrants

Chaotic Govt policy should not diminish Christian welcome to migrants Eugene Quinn, National Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ireland. Photo: JRS Ireland
Chai Brady and Theo McDonald

Ireland’s immigration issue could turn into a good news story if managed correctly, according to the Chair of Christian Charity Tiglin Aubrey McCarthy.

The residential and rehabilitation centre is currently offering services for refugees and migrants at The Light House on Pearse Street, close to where migrants had pitched hundreds of tents which were cleared last week.

“Where it goes wrong is when they come to towns and are put in towns by government, when the infrastructure is not there, and the communication is not there,” he says.

“If your mother or father is short of a doctor because there’s too many people in the town, that’s what we need to look at.”

Eugene Quinn, National Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ireland said: “The reality is they have twice removed those tented encampments and now there’s a third one building up on the Grand Canal. We need to find a durable solution, which is not only the right and moral thing to do, but actually is the only sound thing you can do to avoid other risks that come up by not responding in that way.”

He added: “I think at the moment the Government is struggling, it’s making statements and not following through on the ground on implementation.

“There are challenges for our own people who are in difficult situations, difficult housing situations, so there needs to be a choreography in responding to those needs. We have record numbers of homeless people in Ireland so there’s huge needs on both sides and I suppose the fear is that becomes a polarising issue.

“The Christian response would be to try and find a way that we would respond to the needs of all people, Irish and international people, migrants and asylum seekers but also local people who are homeless and in difficult circumstances, that we would find a response to their needs and we would hear that call.”

Mr Quinn said that the Christian call is clear and that “the Pope in the European context speaks about the cry of the migrant and is concerned about what he calls the ‘globalisation of indifference’ but also he is very concerned about the polarisation as well, that maybe we’re starting to see in Ireland but has been seen in other countries where migrants have been set up as a scapegoat for all the ills in society and a kind of a lightning rod for other concerns and that has led to a lot of hostility. The Christian response is hospitality rather than hostility”.

Mr McCarthy said: “It’s 20 years ago today since Poland came into the EU. 120,000 Polish people have come to Ireland. They have become part and parcel of what we do in Ireland. I employ many of them myself, and they have become an absolutely essential part of the community.

“I think down the line, we look back at this and say, okay, maybe we handled that wrong, but by putting the proper infrastructure in place, the proper integration to the NGOs and the government departments, I think we look back and say okay, I can see how this was part of becoming modern Ireland.”

Fr Niall Leahy of Gardiner Street Parish in Dublin said that migrants bring a real generosity: “One thing I have noticed recently is that we have migrants coming here volunteering. It’s one thing I’ve noticed with migrants coming to Ireland, they will come up and say ‘Father, how can I help?’ And literally willing to clean the church, to do whatever. We’ve had migrants here helping, living in temporary accommodation, coming here and singing in our choir, helping in our garden, sweep up the place after a Mass, so there’s been a real generosity there and that is genuine. They bring energy, they bring generosity and a real fervent faith.”

Councillor John Kingsley Onwumereh, Fianna Fáil councillor for Mulhuddart-Blanchardstown and member of the African Catholic Chaplaincy in Dublin says compassion should be at the heart of the response. “Compassion should be at the heart of this whole thing and making sure that there is an effective way of dealing with it. Ultimately it needs to be handled properly and we need to make sure that there are no knock on effects that will lead to other people picking the short end of the stick.

“We need to be looking at the overall picture – the housing situation and the ability of the system to cope with these new developments. The key thing is ensuring that there are no unpleasant consequences as a result of this.”