Friday 30 September 2016

Helping migrants is a duty, not a choice

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:54

'Defence Minister Simon Coveney’s pledge to be 'generous but not naïve' by accepting 1,000 migrants does not reflect the level of concern nationally'
'Defence Minister Simon Coveney’s pledge to be 'generous but not naïve' by accepting 1,000 migrants does not reflect the level of concern nationally'

The desperation of millions has finally been communicated in the story of one.

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Aylan Kurdi’s tragedy is part of an overwhelming tale of desolation and anguish.

Yesterday’s scenes in Hungary once more challenged every value that the European Union is supposed to uphold. We should not need reminding that the last time dispossessed masses were bundled into train carriages and dispatched to unknown destinations in Europe did not end well. The harrowing scenes are reminiscent of a black chapter in history from which the EU was supposed to deliver us.

It is true that we are witnessing the largest movement of people in Europe since the end of World War II, but it is equally apparent that our leaders are coming up short in meeting the challenge.

Italy, France and Germany have signed a joint document calling for a review of current European Union rules on granting asylum and a “fair” distribution of migrants within the EU. 

To date, Ireland’s response has been dismal. Doing what we can, as opposed to “what we are asked” is now an urgent moral imperative.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney’s pledge to be “generous but not naïve” by accepting 1,000 migrants does not reflect the level of concern nationally, nor the obligation we shoulder morally as a country that literally sent millions of its people overseas in a  search of a better life.

It is to be hoped that Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s meeting with Francois Hollande presages a more humane and compassionate  approach to playing a meaningful role in framing a solution.

With 12 million people displaced by the Syrian war, this is now a global emergency beyond the scope of Europe, let alone Ireland to solve.

Yet, we have a voice and it has not yet been heard internationally; we also have a shared national experience which ought to have framed a more forceful reaction.

The case for the introduction of European-wide quotas for accepting refugees and migrants becomes more urgent each day.

Offering sanctuary and protection to people fleeing war, violence and persecution is not really a question of choice, it is a matter of duty.

We can’t solve this crisis, but we can do a whole lot better.

Banks must not ignore rural areas

A bit like the buses, you spend seven years waiting for one, then along come three at the same time. Yesterday, AIB was understandably rounded upon and urged to do more to help rural communities as it announced that it will open three new city branches.

They are the first to appear since the crash in 2008, and they will be in Dublin and Cork. The bank, which is owned by the taxpayer, sees the need for a branch in Dublin’s technology hub in the Docklands. One would have thought that was one area of the country where it could count on online customers. Given that it has shut down 67 branches since 2012, its urban focus will irk many who live in towns and villages, and find themselves travelling long distances to do their banking, as internet access is not always a given.

Seamus Boland of Ireland Rural Link, in calling for a review of closures, noted bank branches are important in any community, providing financial and social benefits.

But it is difficult to argue with the view taken by MEP Marian Harkin. If Government policy can allow the closure of schools, post offices and garda stations in rural communities, why should commercial banks worry?

Even if they are owned by the taxpayer.

Irish Independent

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