ON THE day I’m writing this it is World Refugee Day. Now, I’m not really one for designated days. There is, after all, an International Coffee Day and a UN sponsored World Television Day. Not so long ago Guinness tried to create, from scratch, Arthur’s Day when apparently we’d all go wild and drink Guinness on a designated day. That, thankfully, now rests in the graveyard where empty corporate slogans are sent to lie in silence.
A refugee day is different, though, obviously. Over 400 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean in Europe this year alone. People, just like you and me. Wives, mothers, brothers, children, fathers, sisters, cousins, toddlers. Babies.
That’s who refugees are.
Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman would have you believe refugees are not like us, but they are. A sorry parade of Irish far right trolls will have you believe refugees are not like us, but they are.
Indeed these Irish eejits film themselves, and post footage on the internet, harassing people who have apparently come to Ireland to steal our jobs and our homes. Ah, you know, the usual bigoted guff. Spouted by people who themselves don’t seem to work. Or if they do they certainly have a lot of time off.
Time to go up and down the country finding people to torment. If your contribution to Irish society is having a phone and racially abusing people do you think you are a positive contributor to Irish society?
I think it was Tommy Robinson, England’s lion with an Irish parent, who first gave headlines to this citizen journalist waffle but I don’t want reporting from a citizen journalist anymore than I want a citizen plumber to fix my dripping taps or a citizen dentist to fix my wonky teeth. Owning a guitar doesn’t make you a musician, does it? So how does owning a phone make you a journalist?
Which is a roundabout way of getting to the disgust anyone would feel if they saw Ireland failing to help refugees.
Or if they saw Irish people setting refugees’ tents on fire. If they saw Irish people blocking roads to prevent refugees moving in or out. If they saw ‘concerned parents’ objecting yet again, in thinly disguised displays of prejudice, to the housing of refugees.
The housing of people. The housing of fathers, mothers, sons, brothers, cousins, daughters, husbands, wives, children. Babies. You know, people, just people like you and Iike me.
My mother and father were, by today’s measuring tools, economic refugees. Along with nearly half a million others they left Ireland in the 1950s in the hope of a better, freer, more stable life. In the hope of being able to raise a family and in the hope that that family might have a future. They didn’t flee political persecution or war or violence or climate catastrophe. Even so they would now be despised by those who despise so many others fleeing situations so much worse. And that is what Irish opposition to refugees, to migration, to asylum seekers, to immigration, is. It is a deluded denial of what being Irish means.
It is, indeed, a hatred of being Irish. If we Irish are not a society, a country, a State, a people, a nation, and a culture defined by the experience of immigration, of leaving home, of going elsewhere, of becoming migrants and immigrants, then which culture is? Look, for instance, at all of our songs and all of our music. It’s so much about home and place because it is about those who had to leave.
There’s no Spancil Hill without California.
There’s no Shane McGowan without Thousands are Sailing. There’s no Clare to Here if it’s not a long, long way.
There’s no Skibbereen without the cruel reason why I left.
If it is necessary to remind someone of how being Irish is about emigration and immigration then I can only suggest, politely, that said someone knows nothing about what being Irish means. If you cannot respond positively to refugees just how Irish are you? Indeed, if you cannot respond positively to refugees just what kind of person are you?
Refugees are simply people like us. They are tomorrow’s citizens and, God only knows, they’re likely to be better ones than some of the eejits we’ve got.