Tuesday 25 October 2016

Europe's U-turn on unilateral action and populist politics

Published 11/09/2015 | 02:30

A refugee father carries his child on the border in Macedonia
A refugee father carries his child on the border in Macedonia

Some interesting thoughts came to mind in the last few days, regarding unilateral action by certain EU countries and populist politics.

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Ten years ago, Spain gave an immigrant amnesty for 700,000 immigrants. Its unilateral action was widely condemned by its EU partners, as a Spanish citizenship was now also a EU citizenship.

EU politicians, including our own, have regularly warned the electorate against populist messages and political parties, so it is interesting to see Taoiseach Enda Kenny going from 600 refugees to thousands after September 3.

In 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Germany's attempts to create a multicultural society have "utterly failed". On September 9, 2015, she is now calling for a distribution of migrants, with no limits on actual numbers. With many people now concerned for Syrian migrants after a result on the mass movement into Europe, will we see similar concern for the millions of Palestinians crowded into refugee camps for the last 40 years, or the Congolese people after five million were killed between 1998 and 2007, or the 500,000 Iraqis killed since the 2003 invasion?

Unilateral action and populist politics are now good, or at least until next time.

Conor O'Sullivan, Wilton, Co Cork

We need safe havens for refugees

It seems from comments in the media that many do not differentiate between individuals fleeing their country in fear for their lives to escape the horrors of war and genocide, and those who just want a better quality of life. If such a vast influx of people continues to enter into EU, it will cause enormous problems, social and economic, which will fuel an increase ultra-nationalism and racism.

Clearly there is no easy solution to this problem but if the EU and UN were to establish save havens on the coast North Africa for refugees and dispatch a greater number of naval vessels to intercept illegible traffickers, it would stabilise the situation. The EU must also establish the necessary financial founding for less-prosperous member states to help them deal with this appalling humanitarian crisis.

Tony Moriarty, Harold's Cross, Dublin

My money's on Russian approach

We are currently witnessing two very different foreign policies at play with the Middle East, both with the same aim.

On the one hand, we have Europe, which is content to adopt the Florence Nightingale role and clean up after Isil in its focusing on the refugees those barbarians are creating.

On the other hand, we have Russia, which appears to be trying to stop Isil from creating further refugees for us by putting boots on the ground in Syria and actually killing the terrorists.

I know which method my money's on.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Kilkenny City

Impact supports no political party

Further to the article by Ivan Yates, 'A tale of two Labour parties, both knee-deep in troubles' (Irish Independent, September 10), the Impact trade union is not affiliated to any political party, nor does the union finance any party. As such, it does not support any political party.

Niall Shanahan, Communications Officer, Impact trade union, Dublin 1

They seek to live, not a better life

Ranked ninth as we are on the Index of Economic Freedom, can we be grateful that Ireland has the capacity to help the Syrian citizens rather than fear the cost to ourselves?

Can we equip those coming with the necessary tools and knowledge that they may join as valued equals in our workplaces and communities? Can we provide for them the necessary structures, thereby viewing this as an opportunity to comprehensively re-imagine the means by which we address the needs of our existing marginalised and vulnerable?

With proper distribution of our wealth, we can do both. Can we not ask why us but why not us, as but for an accident of birth and genetics, it could very well be us? The people of Syria are not fleeing their homes in search of a better life, but to save their lives. Can we respond with reason and humanity?

Cate MacGabhann, Clonmel, Co Cork

A history lesson for Juncker

We have heard Jean-Claude Juncker's outburst to the European Parliament. He obviously has no knowledge of 'forced clearance' by the British government of some of its territory in the then United Kingdom.

Ireland only came out of 'British ownership' in 1922. The 'clearance' included Scotland and 'its backyard', as its politicians like to describe Ireland. It was this 'backyardism' that gave rise to Ireland's three damnations: colonisation, proximity, and religion.

British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, in a speech which was one of the most prejudiced anti-Irish outbursts of the era, declared: "The Irish hate our order, our civilisation, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity... (is) coarse idolatry (Catholicism)."

I suggest that our politicians present a copy of Tim Pat Coogan's book, 'The Famine Plot', to Mr Juncker and to each member of the European Parliament. It outlines the land clearance the British government engaged in to make the estates of the 10,000 absentee landlords living in London, and now bereft of their rental income, more saleable. These clearances were necessary to make the estates more attractive, when approximately 10,000 were sold under 'The Encumbered Estates Act 1849' (a forerunner of Nama).

AJP Taylor, the renowned historian, described Ireland as the Belsen concentration camp of its time. Tim Pat Coogan makes the case that the Irish Famine was a deliberate act of genocide. Coogan expertly catalogues a shocking combination of ambivalence, incompetence and malignance

At that time, Thomas Malthus, the influential advocate of laissez-faire economics, said that it was against morality to assist the poor because of the consequent risk of "stultifying initiative and self-help among the Irish peasantry".

The civil servant Charles Trevelyan whose policies held sway over the fate of a starving population, wrote: "The judgment of God sent calamity to teach the Irish a lesson ,that calamity must not be mitigated... the real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the famine but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse character of the people."

Hugh Duffy, Aughrusmore, Co Galway

Irish Independent

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