Wednesday, 29 September 2021
Afghanistan Crisis: Statements
I welcome the Government's decision to take in an additional 500 refugees. That is to be commended and acknowledged, as my party colleagues have done.
I cannot even begin to imagine the experience of women and girls in Afghanistan over the past month. My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones or fled their homes or who feel they are no longer safe and have no hope. The US, Britain, NATO, the UN and the EU have all failed the people of Afghanistan, but in particular the women and children. They have failed future generations who will now be born into an unequal, segregated, fear-filled, oppressive society. Ireland, given its role on the UN Security Council, needs to work to undo this harm and extend a hand of peace and support to the men and women, boys and girls, in Afghanistan, who have now had 43 sleepless nights since the Taliban took over.
My wife is a secondary school teacher and we have two daughters. When they were younger and we talked at home as a family, we would talk about their dreams and ambitions and what they wanted to do when they grew up. I would always smile when they talked about being scientists or artists. They play sports and love camogie. My heart goes out to the mothers and fathers in Afghanistan now who look at their children and think of their futures, because their daughters will not have the same future. They might never have had the same future my daughters had, but they certainly had the possibility of a much better one than they do now. There are parents now who in July were listening to the same stories from their daughters, who wanted to be vets, doctors, nurses or teachers. Those girls have had their dreams ripped away from them, practically overnight.
We need to send a clear message, to my daughters, to the Minister's daughters and to the daughters in Afghanistan, that this is not right or acceptable. We need to work together, through the UN Security Council and the EU, to let those girls know that they have a future, that we will help in every way we can and not forget them, and that we will ensure there are pathways through European and UN states to give them a chance in the future.
We must ensure that there are places for these girls in our colleges, universities, internships and positions, and in our society in the future. We cannot lose their potential. This is the bare minimum we can offer them. As the saying goes, "Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí" - if we support the young people, they will prosper. I want every girl, woman and everyone in Afghanistan who has suffered so dreadfully in the past month and over decades to know that people are thinking of them tonight. People are planning, hoping and working. I hope these statements will send the message, no matter how small, that people in Ireland and in this Chamber are thinking of them and their human rights.
We will support the Minister and the Government in everything they can do to support the people of Afghanistan. It is morally right and, for a country with a history like Ireland's, the Irish people would want us to do it.