Monday 26 September 2016

Why Mr Juncker's jibe jarred so much

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker

There is a reason the number of O'Neills and Murphys living in the US exceeds the number in Ireland, chided European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Ireland should not require a punch in the moral solar plexus to remember its past. Mr Juncker's jibe jarred so much because it hit home.

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The failure of generosity and fellowship displayed in our official response to the refugee crisis will be remembered as an opportunity missed.

Have we forgotten that between 1845 and 1855, more than 1.5 million of what the press then described as Micks, Paddys and Brigids left Ireland for refuge in America.

And they found it. It was brutal and it was cold, and sometimes hostile, but it was sanctuary. Many in the US feared the wave of Irish immigrants, described as "aliens" and seen as under the spell of the church.

Sound familiar? Mr Juncker now has plans to resettle around 160,000 migrants from Italy, Greece and Hungary around the continent. It is as well that he does, for even now the Coalition has yet to settle upon the number of refugees Ireland may take in. In his State of the EU address, Mr Juncker said that Europe was "sought worldwide as a place of refuge", and was seen by those fleeing Isil in the Middle East as "a place of hope, a haven of stability".

"We can build walls and fences," said Mr Juncker.

"But imagine for a second if it were you, your children in your arms."

Being Irish means we do not need to "imagine". Once upon a time, we spilled from boats on foreign shores.

Whom would have thought we would need reminding?

Irish Independent

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