Wednesday, 6 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Billy Lawless (Independent)
I agree with Senator McDowell's call yesterday for a proper debate and discussion in the House on the question of direct provision. I appreciate that what the Senator spoke to yesterday and again in his article this morning is built on his experience as a former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Attorney General concerned with the process, procedure and legality of those who seek refuge in our State.
I wish to touch on the human story that is at the heart of this debate and the national discussion taking place. I wish to speak first to the humanity of those working in organisations that provide practical and emotional support to those seeking asylum in this State, from the Irish Refugee Council to the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland. I pay tribute to our primary and secondary schools across the country that are providing the gift of education and helping with the integration of refugees in the communities in which they reside. Most of all, I pay tribute to the communities right across Ireland that host direct provision centres, from Killarney to Carrick-on-Suir, with little fuss and none of the fear that has been fostered in recent months. These are the people and the Ireland I recognise. It is not up to communities to identify who should or should not apply for asylum here or which application is more worthy than which. That is the responsibility of the State.
As Irish people, however, we are uniquely and indelibly linked to our own story of emigration, forced off these shores as we were through starvation and deprivation and granted asylum when no system existed to help build the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America. The ability of our State to meet the economic and social challenges of those seeking refuge is also unique among that of practically every other country in the European Union. There are no rubber dinghies coming across the Irish Sea packed with people who carry with them the dreams and aspirations of a better life. I accept that in the modern world every state must be able to control and manage its borders and that the management of those borders can at times be done with limited compassion. Some people in this country want to undermine our democracy and are using the unsavoury tactic of blaming the other, or the stranger, for our economic and social injustices. We Irish have seen this before, in signs stating "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish". Our dialogue and discussions should be about how communities work to help those seeking asylum and whether we can talk about how Ireland fulfils its obligations to those seeking refuge. Yes, let us have the honest discussion my colleague spoke about yesterday, but I plead for the discussion not to be about who should or should not apply in the first place or which person's application is more genuine than which. Instead, the discussion should be about how we grant asylum as quickly as possible to those who are entitled to the refuge of this country. How do we ensure that Ireland deals humanely with those who apply for asylum and those in our direct provision centres? These are the questions that, if answered, will speak to the true instincts of us Irish people and our tied history to immigrant communities across the world.