Refugees must respect Irish values, says bishop
A senior bishop yesterday issued a stark warning about the refugee crisis, saying that displaced people given sanctuary in Ireland must respect our values, laws and traditions.
The intervention by Bishop of Cork & Ross Dr John Buckley represents the first time a Catholic Church leader has highlighted what the church sees as key issues facing the electorate on February 26.
Dr Buckley highlighted social exclusion, homelessness and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and stressed that the election and the formation of the 32nd Dail represented a pivotal moment in Irish history.
He warned that the refugee crisis was now threatening to shake the very fundamentals of the European Union.
"The vast majority of refugees who have experienced great hardship, violence and suffering are good and law-abiding people," he said.
"The refugee crisis is one which is threatening to destabilise governments across Europe."
But, in a clear reference to integration and the acceptance of western values and morals, Dr Buckley stressed there was an onus on those given support and shelter.
"Refugees must respect the values, laws and traditions of the host countries," he declared. "Ireland and Europe must address this question as a matter of urgency while respecting the need to follow proper procedures and security checks."
His comments came amid mounting pressure on Ireland to accept significant numbers of Syrian refugees this year as more than one million people are expected to stream into Europe from the war-torn country over the coming months.
Dr Buckley stressed that Ireland has endured one of the most challenging periods in its history.
"The last few years have been difficult for all sectors of Irish society," he said. "However, it is well known that the vulnerable have felt that austerity more.
"There is now a clear choice emerging as to whether we want a reduction in taxes or an increase in funding for vital services, healthcare and security being just two of the topical examples."
He said that issues like homelessness and lack of access to affordable housing represented a scandal for Irish society.
"There is no moral justification for a lack of housing. It is an issue that demands investment.
"The regional co-ordinator of the Society of St Vincent de Paul told me recently that they are dealing with a cohort of new poor, many of whom were contributors to the charity in the past."
Dr Buckley also issued a stark warning about any attempt to repeal the Eighth Amendment - and he urged voters to raise the issue with canvassing politicians.
"In the debate, there will be frequent references to 'fatal foetal abnormalities'. Indeed, the word 'fatal' is misleading since there is no medical evidence, none whatsoever, where a doctor can predict, with certainty, the lifespan of babies before they are born."
Dr Buckley warned that some of the language surrounding the debate was very hurtful - and he said phrases like 'incompatible with life' could imply that a baby's life was worthless.
"Candidates in the election should be questioned, politely but firmly, not just on their future intentions but on their past record," he said.
"The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 directly targeted the life of the unborn child and did so in the full knowledge that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings.
"In the context of abortion, the church teaches that it is wrong to confuse the necessary medical treatment to save the life of a mother and which does not intend to harm the baby with abortion which deliberately takes the life of a child."