Thursday 29 September 2016

Taoiseach must end the ‘confused crisis messages’

Ralph Reigel, Lise Hand and John Downing

Published 05/09/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

The Taoiseach has been urged to end delays on a clear plan of what the Government will do to help stricken migrants.

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Barry Andrews, who heads one of Ireland's leading overseas charities GOAL, has warned Enda Kenny that the Government's series of "changed and confused messages" risks leaving the way open to fanatics who oppose Ireland taking in people who are now in peril of their lives.

"The Government has changed its attitude in the past week. But now there are a series of diffuse and contradictory messages by different ministers," Mr Andrews said.

"Mr Kenny must lay out one clear plan. It is not good enough to say Government is waiting for EU decisions. Merkel did not do that, neither did Cameron or Hollande. Ireland is a sovereign state within the European Union," he told the Irish Independent.

At the same time, 15 of Ireland's leading campaign organisations - including Trocaire, Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Irish Refugee Council - delivered a withering judgement on the Government response to date. They urged a recall of the Dáil to debate an emergency migrant plan and an undertaking to take in far more stricken migrants.

"Without compassionate and courageous action and leadership, more lives will be lost, more families will be destroyed and the bodies of more children will wash up on European shores," the organisations said in a joint statement.

Earlier yesterday President Michael D Higgins (pictured) urged the Irish people not to fear the arrival of migrants to Ireland as he criticised the UN and EU for a slow and lumbering response to a human crisis. He said the migrants were ordinary citizens "fleeing from kidnapping, slavery and killing".

The Taoiseach criticised Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban for warning that Europe's "Christian roots" risked being undermined by an influx of Muslim people.

Mr Kenny said the EU, which Hungary had joined, was based on the principle of the free movement of people.

But then the confusion about how many people Ireland will actually take set in. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald suggested a figure of 1,800 which would be an effective trebling of the number already offered to the EU.

The Taoiseach, however, signalled that far more than 1,800 people may be involved. Mr Kenny said, if the EU was re- locating over 100,000 people to ease the burden on Greece and Italy, Ireland may take more than the number suggested by the Justice Minister.

Defence Minister, Simon Coveney, said the Government is to examine an audit of all State accommodation resources including Defence Force barracks, direct provision centres, old school dorms and 'ghost' housing estates to prepare for the influx of over 2,000 Syrian refugees.

Mr Coveney admitted that, like Environment Minister Alan Kelly, he found it impossible to sleep having viewed the tragic images of three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach outside Bodrum in Turkey.

Both ministers are fathers of young children - and both have admitted that the horrific image encapsulated the terrible plight now facing hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Irish Independent

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