Monday 27 January 2020

McAleese: 'Ireland must insist on tolerance for refugees and confront the tide of malice'

Call for tolerance: Former President Mary McAleese. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Call for tolerance: Former President Mary McAleese. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Sarah Mac Donald

Former president Mary McAleese has warned that this is "no time for silence" on racial and religious intolerance as there is "a tide of malice and misery to be turned".

In an address to the congregation of Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford ahead of relaunching its 'Joy Bells', Ms McAleese called for Ireland to be "a light to the world" and an "example of tolerance and inclusion".

"These are noble things, learnable things, and they have helped us navigate a passage through the toxic debris that history cast ahead of us," she told the Church of Ireland congregation.

It spearheaded the anti-sectarian ecumenical bell-ringing initiative, which has been taken up by hundreds of churches around the world.

Ms McAleese stressed that there would be more refugees and huge movements of people uprooted by violence, poverty, famine and despair in the future. She said if Ireland was not to be "consumed" by the current strain of intolerance towards refugees and migrants, it must "confront it, name it, shame it".

She was speaking against the backdrop of the Taoiseach's comments in Washington on behalf of 'undocumented' Irish in the US and the Trump administration's new executive order on immigration targeting six mainly Muslim countries.

Read more: Mary McAleese: 'Trump and Brexit have left people feeling empowered to be racist'

Noting that it was medieval Irish monks who spread the practice of ringing church bells, Ms McAleese said it was particularly fitting on St Patrick's weekend, as the first group of Syrian refugees settle into Ballaghaderreen, that Ireland's oldest city should "send out a message to our troubled and troubling world".

It is almost two years since the bells of Christ Church last rang out and yesterday the repaired bells pealed for an hour. Ms McAleese and Dean Maria Jansson of Christ Church said the bell ring was not just to announce that the bells were back but it was a message of joy, welcome and tolerance.

"We ring the bells for all those who are on the move today fleeing famine, war, lack of opportunity and whose lives could be so simply transformed by a smile and a helping hand.

"The bells are drowning out the siren voices of racial and religious intolerance which are playing havoc with the lives of so many of God's human family, making mothers and fathers heartsick and frightened for their children and for their future," Ms McAleese said.

Referring to the national saint, the former President said: "We insist on tolerance for the refugee, for the immigrant, for the stranger among us, in the name of Patrick, the trafficked child kidnapped from his home and brought to a foreign land to work as a slave."

Irish Independent

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