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Direct Provision needs a rethink

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

Just because something is legal does not make it right. Laws change, what is morally right does not. Society once legislated for slavery. Even the more die-hard believers in a God of love and mercy saw it as acceptable.
Our own historical experience is another example. Murder, plundering, pillage, forced hunger, denial of civil, religious and cultural rights were all ‘acceptable’ as colonial ‘rights’. Once again, many of those who accepted such actions were die-hard believers, unaware that they themselves were at the centre of their own religion, not God or others.
To be in control and make the laws was the real imprimatur. Those in charge called the shots; the masters made the rules. End of story. When you scratch the underbelly of modern society you discover that not much has really changed. Laws are introduced to represent what is right and just. And woe is he or she to question that premise.
While Minister Charlie Flanagan can blag about a ‘siege’ in Achill he forgets to mention the serious flaws associated with the government-sponsored Direct Provision centres. Apart from the silly title, many are benefitting their owners more than the residents they purport to serve.
Most people know that if the Government asked for 30 families to accommodate asylum seekers or refugees in Achill, 300 families would have responded positively. Instead, the Government retreated to name calling, seeking to isolate people and, in doing so, splitting a community. This also takes the spotlight off themselves and shines it on others.
It is the usual method deployed by the State when its proposals meet with questions. The Corrib Gas project is another example. The Government sided with big business and isolated a small community. In a few simple steps of sheer ignorance a government can leave a legacy of distrust, even within small communities.
It is always the same question – whose interest is being served? What is the modus operandi deployed in such situations? Does the Government really care about refugees and asylum seekers? If so, why is it being so disrespectful by providing such degrading services to people who are already hurting?
Let the Government sort out who should or shouldn’t be here and let local communities provide the care to those who come. Allow refugees and asylum seekers to be part of local communities, not show pieces on the periphery. Why isolate these people from the community, many of whom are already broken?
Direct Provision centres, by their nature, are not fit for purpose. Apart from being unable to meet the physical needs of vulnerable people they are an affront to a person’s dignity. They demean, degrade and humiliate broken people. The provision of direct provision centres is not a legacy the people of Ireland wish to trace onto our history.
Last week, a strong editorial in this paper highlighted the lack of consultation by the Government and Fine Gael’s reaction to its own racism embedded in some of its candidates.
To think that the use of unoccupied army barracks will now provide an answer is also way off the mark. What next? Spike Island?  
We know that the Government is ‘obliged to accept’ refugees and asylum seekers. We know that their current plan is to ‘house them’ around the country (regardless of the provision of services). We know part of the reason is that cities have their own homeless population and the Government cannot be seen to provide accommodation for ‘outsiders’ while ‘natives’ are on the streets (translate as ‘afraid of the public response’).         
Irish politicians need to find a voice at home and within the EU. Desktop thinking is not working when dealing with refugees, asylum seekers and the homeless. Anyone can see that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is way out of his depth. But it is not just the minister; it is the thinking behind the policy. He is just the pen pusher in the operation.
Tolstoy’s ‘Wrong will never be right, even if the majority share in it’ rings true. The law is there to protect people. Another famous line comes to mind. ‘To live outside the law you must be honest’.