Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Accommodation for International Protection Applicants: Motion [Private Members]


2:15 pm

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour) | Oireachtas source

-----with what the Minister has to deal with now. We did not have the same numbers. We did not have racists in the Dáil in the same number as the Minister has to deal with, or in the Seanad, but I did have a partner in government that was unsympathetic, which is what the Minister has. I also had to deal with - I have to say this - a permanent government that is institutionally racist. What I used to hear when I was in the Department at the time - not the same Department as the Minister's but the Department that was dealing with this issue - was pull factor, pull factor, pull factor. I feel there is a percentage of thought within the permanent government that wants to see images of people in tents in Mount Street because it suits the agenda of "Do not come here".

I always think that in politics, one is either part of the solution or part of the problem, and I do not think the Minister is part of the problem. I think he is part of the solution. He came into government with a fair-minded view of direct provision, namely, to get rid of it and to nationalise it, as it was, and not be dependent on the private sector. I applaud him for that vision, and I think that if it were not for the Ukrainian crisis, he would have delivered on that by now. I can absolutely accept that all these issues he has to deal with are difficult. He is getting zero support from his partners in government. That is clear and has been outlined by my colleagues in the Social Democrats, whom I should have thanked earlier for tabling this motion, which says a lot about their ethics and value system. This is the sort of imagery some people want there to be.

I might outline what I think would have worked two weeks ago in the case of Mount Street.

The Minister or a high-ranking official in his Department should have gone to Mount Street and given leadership to say that it was not acceptable and spoken to the incredible local community organisers, most of whom are local women who put to bed this idea that women need to be afraid of asylum seekers. They came down to the street and engaged with them. I witnessed it myself. They handed over shoes, clothes and food. They organised a rota of care. We also had medics there looking after them. There were people advocating for them, and speaking about the spread of disease like scabies and so on. The men, some of whom were minors, were appreciative of the efforts. However, you could not help but be taken aback that Saturday by how dramatic it was. A number of buses rolled up and the men were sent somewhere and did not know where they were going. Dublin City Council staff then came in and having previously slashed the tents individually collected them with a big picker. I spoke to one man who just got an email from the IPO saying there was accommodation organised for him in Dundrum. He did not know where Dundrum was. I accompanied him to the office. By the way, the local women had paid for taxis for some of the men to go to Dundrum because accommodation had been organised for them. I went into the IPO office with him, and asked how this man was supposed to get to Dundrum. They had no answer for me. They pointed to where the Luas stop was. They pointed to where the bus stop was. This man had no English. He was completely disorientated. He was clearly in a vulnerable situation. He had to try to trust me. We gave him cash. We put him in a taxi. The taxi man was sympathetic, and off he went to Dundrum. I thought there was a basic lack of humanity there within the system to facilitate that man to get where the email told him he had to go.

Deputy Whitmore said it very eloquently. We have forgotten that these are human beings. We have forgotten the humanity in their eyes. We are consistently dealing with them as statistics or numbers we just have to get down. It is as a direct result of Government policy that was initiated last December, and it is going to get worse because the clock is ticking on the 90 days accommodation that new arrival Ukrainian refugees have in our system. After 90 days, are we not pretty sure that we will have Ukrainians around Mount Street or other parts of the city or country, under the same conditions?

The Minister knows all this. We have never had a time in Ireland where elections were determined by immigration, where debates in this House were about immigration and people played the race card, but it is happening now. The only time it happened was 20 years ago, the first time I ran for a local election, when there was a citizenship referendum. It was a 78% vote for people in favour of restricting citizenship rights for Irish-born children. I did not think we would go back there again. That we are back here again is not the Minister's fault because I know he is trying to do the right thing, but we have to have a basic level of humanity in how we deal with these things. The way things were organised last Saturday speaks to a basic lack of respect. There was not even the simple compassion of information and care for those individuals to explain where they would go next, what the facilities would be like and how the process was going to benefit and empower them. I believe we can do better, but the Minister needs more support. Other Departments are not stepping up. The Department of Defence is not stepping up. The Department of Education is not stepping up, and the Department of housing is absolutely not stepping up. All parties in this House need to be part of the solution and not quickly become part of the problem.


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