Protests at a small number of centres used to house people who have been driven from their homes outside of Ireland and who are in peril of their lives are disappointing, but not entirely surprising. Yet these occasional protests also tell us how we all need to keep our collective nerve here and respect our moral and legal obligations.
e must keep two key points in view: Firstly, Irish citizens have a legal obligation to help and support people fleeing for their lives from very difficult situations. Secondly, this obligation is more fundamentally and simply reinforced by our membership of the human race.
Granted, the hard part in delivering on these basic obligations right now is that it is happening amid a tough housing crisis and an impending economic retraction internationally. Both of these grim realities understandably make many Irish people nervous as they brace for the future, and some people question why we must deliver help to those coming to our country from overseas in such numbers.
That is where the dual need for strong political leadership and honest communication with Irish citizens becomes paramount. There is ample local and national evidence that most Irish people want to help the beleaguered people coming here in numbers, even at this less-than-opportune time.
The key point in how we order our affairs is honestly acknowledging that some Irish people are less confident about whether delivering help to these embattled new arrivals, amidst the Irish nation’s other difficulties, is really feasible. There are also local problems which have been poorly communicated. Hence the urgent need for leadership and reassurance.
Current and sporadic local tensions tell us that senior politicians must intensify their focus on addressing popular anxiety over the large numbers of migrants in Ireland at a time of not just a prolonged housing crisis. We must also face other problems like real capacity problems involving things like healthcare and education.
What now looks like – and indeed is – agitation focused upon local problems surrounding offering help to refugees and asylum must be faced head-on. Evidence so far indicates to us that some high-profile objections to refuge centres are driven by minority groups. Happily, most established councillors and Oireachtas members have behaved responsibly in potentially volatile situations.
But our mainstream politicians also know that they have an obligation to face the reality that this sporadic local unease could mushroom, and Irish people – who are in the majority still very keen to care for beleaguered migrants – badly need reassurance that the authorities are in control here.
Everybody knows that a “perfect world” cannot be delivered any time soon on this as in dealing with many other issues. People know that amid all of the difficulties and myriad pressures, much has been achieved so far.
Our political leaders’ duty here is to keep finding ways of conveying that message and also offering reassurance about the future to the Irish nation. If our leaders can do that, the vast bulk of people will keep the faith, and continue to help our embattled visitors in their hour of dire need.