The Justice Minister has warned that ‘anti-immigrant’ groups, trying to ‘whip up’ race hate in rural Ireland must not be tolerated.
Writing in the Irish Examiner today, Charlie Flanagan said he understands the concerns people have about the Direct Provision system – but warned that there are those exploiting those concerns in an “insidious and dangerous” manner.
He was writing after some locals in Oughterard, County Galway voiced concern over plans to open a new centre in the town.
“Some people disapprove fundamentally of direct provision,” he said. “They want it abolished.”
“Others see some merit in it, but would like it improved, while a third cohort worry about the impact of a possible centre in their area.
“I understand the concerns of these groups.
“But there is a fourth group, that I don’t understand and which I do not think any of us should tolerate.
“That is the group that would exploit the above concerns to whip up anti-immigrant, anti-asylum seeker sentiment.
“This is insidious and dangerous behaviour. I want to call it out.”
Minister Flanagan was speaking after Galway West TD Noel Grealish faced criticism for calling African asylum seekers “economic migrants” who have come to Ireland to “sponge off the system.”
Deputy Grealish made the comments at a public meeting about the planned centre in Oughterard.
The independent TD, who generally votes with the Government, has yet to withdraw the comments despite calls from the Taoiseach and others urging him to do so.
Minister Flanagan said fears about the opening of new centre in other towns in recent years have proved to be unfounded.
He said the opening of a new facility in Lisdoonvarna has seen more people in the town, more business in the town and a thriving and supportive ‘Friends of the Centre’ group which runs community events involving the asylum seekers.
“And it is not just Lisdoonvarna,” he said.
“Irish communities that have had centres open in or near their town have turned out to be not just universally welcoming, but also enriched by the asylum seekers.
He said the Irish people who have emigrated all over the world have “enriched lives and cultures” wherever they went.
“What those who are coming here are asking is that we would offer them first, protection, then integration, and, finally, the chance to enrich ours,” he wrote.
“Let’s give them that chance: wholeheartedly.”