Editorial: Targeting asylum-seekers, no matter where they come from, is unjust and senseless

The burnt remains of an encampment used by asylum-seekers, at Sandwith Street in Dublin, which was set alight following protests in the area. Photo: Conor Ó Mearáin/Collins Photo Agency


Emotion can never be a reliable driver for debate. So from the outset it is important to be clear: Ireland does not have an open-door policy for asylum-seekers.

But nor does it have a policy of slamming the door in the faces of people who may be in danger.

“Burning people out of their tents – those actions do not represent the vast majority of people in this country,” said Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys in the Dáil, commenting on last Friday’s events in Dublin.

Yet resentment and rancour is now asserting itself in other parts of the country where asylum-seekers are being sent.

Insufficient consultation and negotiation with locals has fed the anger.

But none of this is the fault of those who came here for sanctuary. Yes, the Government needs to do better in consulting with locals. Anywhere there is anger and suspicion it is all too easy to engineer an explosive situation. We have seen how adept far-right groups are at manipulating volatility.

Venting aggression on innocent people who have nowhere else to go is deeply reprehensible.

Attacking the stateless and homeless out of frustration over the housing crisis in Ireland is not only unjust and deeply unfair, but completely senseless.

And lest anyone forget, there is a vicious war raging in Europe where people are being slaughtered daily. As Ms Humphreys has said, the situation the State was facing was “unprecedented”.

Around 100,000 people have arrived from Ukraine and elsewhere over the last year.

Ireland, like the rest of the world, recognises the horror and injustice in the plight of Ukrainians. The moral and humane thing to do was to accommodate as many as we reasonably could.

Other corners of the planet are also hostile environments and we do what we can. But targeting asylum-seekers, no matter where they come from, is an outrage.

Visiting more trauma and rejection on people who have already suffered so much is beneath us.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said the Government and local authorities will now engage with the local community in Inch, Co Clare, to “ease” any concerns over the housing of asylum-seekers, after protesters blocked road access to a hotel.

Surely such talks should have been held before now, although none of this gives anyone a right to menace or intimidate.

It may be understandable to a degree that the Government is scrambling to find adequate places for people to stay.

Yet no one should be sleeping in the street. It is indefensible that secure sites have not been prepared by now.

No one expects us to provide five-star comfort. However, complete safety from harm, and shelter from the elements is the very least we might do.

There are times when we have to look beyond the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader ones of all our humanity.

Surely the war in Ukraine makes this such a time.