Today I choose to remind readers of a tragedy over three years ago when the body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi was seen by the entire world as the child lay on a Mediterranean beach.
Little Alan and members of his family drowned off a Turkish resort as an over-loaded small craft overturned when it was abandoned by a people smuggler who had collected several thousand dollars to take refugees to Europe in September 2015.
Forward now to last week when an appalling attack was carried out on a former hotel that was to open for asylum-seekers at Rooskey on the Leitrim-Roscommon border.
The people for whom the new direct-provision accommodation centre was intended were just like tragic Alan and his family – refugees who fled terror and sought help abroad.
That help will eventually, come their way in Ireland – but unfortunately in a land that boasts it has a hundred thousand welcomes they are now reminded it also has a racist minority that brings shame.
Whoever attacked the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey and another planned direct-provision accommodation centre a few weeks earlier in Moville, Co. Donegal, are racist. Let there be no mistake about that!
They are just as criminally irresponsible as the people smugglers who left little Alan to drown before his neatly-dressed body was swept ashore.
I am greatly ashamed that I live in the same country as those prepared to criminally disrupt our welcome for people who risked their lives, fleeing terror and political oppression, to get here in the first place.
I am aware there is controversy about the government’s failure to consult local communities in some areas about plans for direct-provision centres.
The concern of the communities is not that they object to strangers being “dumped” into their midst, but that they aren’t given time to prepare a proper welcome, including arranging social facilities and educational opportunities.
Concerns, these days, would even include fears that there may not be enough housing when the immigrants are ready to move on from the direct-provision centres.
They are worries the communities rightly expect to take up with the authorities.
All they are seeking is an open approach by the government.
The thugs who attempted to destroy the Rooskey and Moville centres are criminals who don’t care that it’s Ireland’s turn to help foreigners in need.
For more than 180 years, since the Great Famine, other countries have catered well for the Irish in need.
America, Australia, Canada and Britain – despite its appalling behaviour during the famine – looked after more than a couple of million Irish when they most needed it.
It’s our turn now. Let’s greet the strangers in our traditional way – Cead Mile Failte.
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