President's wise words on migrants and the EU
Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30
It's not possible to walk across a watery grave, but yesterday, when reports of hundreds of more deaths in the Mediterranean came through, it felt like someone had done precisely that. For, almost to the day, 800 people were drowned last year trying to make the crossing from Africa to Europe. It is still unclear how many died yesterday, but that there should have been any deaths at all raises searching questions.
Yesterday, President Higgins criticised the response of Europe to the refugee crisis, describing it as being characterised by "ruinously narrow self-interest".
He felt we ought to be able to rise beyond tear gas, razor wire and rubber bullets. He wondered how one of the wealthiest parts of the world should feel so threatened by the need of others. Another Irishman, Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Migration, has also questioned the legality of the new EU deal that repatriates migrants. He pointed out that deporting people without considering their asylum applications would break international treaties. One would hope that it was within the power of a bloc of more than 500 million people to offer the marginalised something more than further marginalisation.
Italy's foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, commenting on the drownings, said: "This is another strong reason for Europe to commit itself not to build walls."
The concept of universal rights dictates that they must apply to all or to none if they are to have meaning. If they become selective, they will be bartered away by governments.
That is why the challenge laid down by President Higgins for Europe to collectively examine its response to the migrant and refugee crisis is apposite. The European Union is currently enduring something of a torturous night of the soul.
Mr Higgins's call on its people to breathe new life into the EU project is timely.
The union faces many daunting questions. But not every problem is a fiscal one - moral and humane factors must be weighed; people are not commodities and profits were never meant to be the sole purpose for keeping the EU together. The lack of political debate and the absence of a wider European ideal could come at a considerable price. President Higgins is right to ventilate such concerns.
Road to GP hell is paved with good intentions
It is remarkable what happens when the laws of unintended consequence collide with good intentions.
Today, we reveal how GPs are attempting to cope with what has been described as a "tsunami" of under-sixes, who, we are being told, are clogging up their surgeries.
But considering that nationally there are only 2,283 GPs to cope with some 367,000 eligible children, the consequences of free GP care for under-sixes should have been foreseen.
According to Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers: "The scheme was introduced in good faith. But it was driven through without a proper analysis of how GPs could cope with the additional workload."
One doctor described how their waiting room had become a crèche and several others have complained that they do not have the capacity to deal with the pressure.
This is but another example of how a short-term populist initiative intended to garner political favour can do damage.
Talk about "new politics" is very much in vogue, but given the reluctance to even form a government, our leaders are running before they can crawl.
Forget about "new politics", we would happily settle for anything that isn't "boomerang politics".