Sunday 25 September 2016

It's time the Irish people took a stance on the refugee crisis

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:57

Refugees squeeze on to a train in Budapest, Hungary
Refugees squeeze on to a train in Budapest, Hungary

Does anyone feel as ashamed as I do of our stance towards the refugee crisis? The scale of this human tragedy just keeps getting worse and worse and what are our political representatives saying?

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They are arguing numbers and playing politics. “Ireland is taking more than its fair share of migrants,” Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said, while Defence Minister Simon Coveney said “Ireland had been generous but must not be naive”.

My heart sinks at such heartless and ignorant responses. Anyone who is watching the news or reading a newspaper knows these people are risking life and limb, not for a few euro of social welfare, but to be given the chance to live.

Are we going to sit idly by while tens of thousands wait at ports, railway stations and makeshift camps? Is this the Ireland we are proud of?

Maybe it’s time to put protests over water charges, public sector pay, grants, etc  aside and help our neighbours.

Germany has committed to taking 1pc of its population (approximately 800,000 people) – can we not do the same (meaning we take about 45,000)? Mr Coveney and Ms Fitzgerald are too scared but I don’t believe the citizens of Ireland are.

Everyone should contact local and national politicians and demand that we bring these desperate and destitute children, mothers and fathers here.

We can all help.

I will happily share my house with a family for free for a minimum of two years (and longer if necessary).

If we continue to ignore this tragedy, I believe we will be damned.

Elizabeth Whelan, Aughavas, Co Leitrim

Saving our island heritage

Recently, some friends and I visited Tarlach and Áine de Blacam’s Inis Meáin knitwear factory, as we do every year on a day trip from our annual holiday to Inis Óirr.

When we arrived and sent word to the factory that we would like to greet him, Tarlach bounded up the stairs to the factory shop to say hello, his hands too dirty to shake ours, as he excitedly told us about a new machine he was installing which would give them greater scope for their designs. 

His knitwear can truly be called Irish, as it is designed and made in Ireland, in the most remote island of the magical Aran islands. It was infectious to experience his enthusiasm. I always feel in the presence of an artist when I meet him. What he and Áine are doing also makes me feel intensely proud to be Irish. When Joe Mc Hugh announced that Aer Arran was to be replaced by a helicopter service, Tarlach de Blacam was quoted in the papers as saying it would mean “death by 1000 knives”. 

A couple of days later, we attended the public meeting in Inis Oírr to discuss this move. About 80 or 90 local people attended, as well as a few visitors like ourselves.

My overwhelming emotion was that in my 70 years and despite my love of the language, I had never been in a room before where Irish was spoken as the main means of communication.

I felt utterly privileged to be there and wondered why we would want to hurt these people, the sole custodians of our native language at its most precious, as a means of ordinary communication? Everyone at the meeting wanted the service to remain. Will the helicopter staff speak the language of the people it serves as Aer Arann staff do?  

Constance Short, Blackrock, Co Louth

No refugees without a plan

The current surge in refugees and the inability of the EU to control the uncontrollable is a frightening situation for the people of Europe. We are utterly leaderless and unable to handle a mess delivered by the collapse in failed states in the Middle East, accelerated by Isil. Of course Europe must help, but the collapse of any form of border control will lead to chaos.

Various NGOs are calling for a no borders policy and for Europe to accept vast numbers of asylum seekers from different cultures and religious backgrounds.

In my view, this is a war situation requiring the imposition of war measures. Currently Germany and France are planning to force other European states to accept huge amounts of foreign nationals whether they like it or not.

This cannot stand in Ireland  where our own people are sleeping in parks and many cannot afford to buy homes, while existing asylum seekers are in a failed system for years at our expense.

There should be a referendum on any plan to introduce asylum seekers to our country. 

Peter Monahan, Drogheda Co Meath

Irish farming is still sustainable

Nobody is better aware than farmers that all roads to success are uphill and the ‘future is not ours to see’. It’s hard, even to imagine, after all the euphoria last April with the lifting of the EU’s 30 years of quotas that this week over two thousand farmers would be marching to the European Commission Offices in Lower Mount Street, Dublin, led by two men – one carrying a piglet in his arms, the other leading a dairy cow on a halter!

The protest was to highlight plummeting margins in the dairy, grain and pig-meat sectors.

IFA leader Eddie Downey, in responding, put the collapse down to the year-long Russian ban on EU imports, combined with severe price volatility.  More accredited it to the rumble in the massive Chinese economy. The president of the European Milk Board, Romueld Schaber warned when quotas ended last April: “Chronic price collapses are inevitable; the next crisis is on its way”.

My verdict – it’s simply the first evidence of ‘open-air’ competition.  Rather than everybody rushing into dairying and over expanding, it would be wiser, as a hedge to price fluctuation, if cereal growers stuck with grain and both sides diversified as much as possible in their own sectors. Even today, that old adage ‘never put all your eggs in one basket’ is very relevant. 

Lure here, by any means, some of the giant Chinese multi-nationals to create more jobs; but being such a very small country, it seems inconceivable to waste time and money developing markets in far-away countries that could never be either economically viable or practical for transport.

How much more sensible to stick with countries that are viable and nearer home – Europe or even the US. Despite gambling with the elements, disease and price fragility, Irish farming is a sustainable industry with the stability to press on regardless.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent

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