Wednesday, 29 September 2021
Afghanistan Crisis: Statements
First, I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O’Gorman, for all their work on this issue, particularly in the context of the repatriation of Irish citizens and their family members. I also thank Deputy Cathal Crowe for his contribution, which was very important and powerful in the context of what is happening and why we are here discussing these matters.
There are a number of families with whom I have been in contact over the past month or so that the Department of Foreign Affairs has assisted me in getting them home. I also pay tribute in particular to the members of the Army Ranger Wing for the work that they did, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs officials, in the context of the emergency intervention. The latter was a proud moment for many Irish people in the context of what was going on in Afghanistan.
The taking over of Afghanistan by the Taliban was not a surprise, but the speed at which it occurred was.One has to recognise that Afghanistan has a very young population that now faces significant challenges, particularly females, many of whom were studying and in school and will now be prevented from doing so, or so we are led to believe but from international reports. Young girls and women with dreams and aspirations have questions to ask as to whether they will have the opportunity to achieve those dreams. That is where the generosity and values of the Irish people comes to play, as Deputy Leddin has quite rightly outlined.
There is a great deal that we can be doing in overseas development assistance and other supports we can give the international community and to NGOs that have access to the country, by way of trying to mitigate against a humanitarian disaster in respect of food supplies and the disintegration of the Afghan economy, as Deputy Leddin and others mentioned. This will lead to very significant difficulties for the population.
I welcome the announcement of the new admissions programme which is a very positive step. The broadening out of the family reunification criteria is something that we must address, not just for Afghanistan, but for other countries.
The generosity and values of Irish people was mentioned quite eloquently earlier. I believe that we are the most generous people in the world per capitain terms of giving to charities, among other things.
That is deeply pride-inducing for us as a people.
At the same time, I received an email this afternoon from a citizen with a very common name, decrying the fact there are so many foreigners in Ireland and arguing we should close our borders and follow what Michel Barnier suggested, I believe, in a completely different context. Such attitudes make my blood boil. We have a responsibility to those who are not as fortunate as us. We have our own problems but we do not have problems like those in certain countries, including Afghanistan. That is why we should extend a firm hand of friendship and the supports of this nation to the many citizens of Afghanistan, who now face a very bleak future.