I haven’t written much about the Refugee Crisis because, frankly, it angers me immensely and it is difficult to write in any way reasonably about it.
Theresa May’s comments on the subject, in particular, are an outrage. They are nasty, unsympathetic, and of course factually and morally completely wrong.
A less commented upon feature of all this has been the disgraceful response of Irish politicians. Ireland takes fewer refugees than any other country, and has taken fewer per capita than just about anywhere comparable. The total absence of urgency to help – on the part not just of government but also of opposition – has been genuinely shocking.
Here is the thing: the reason those politicians can get away with that is representative of the way a lot of people think. “Sure it’s terrible, but the main issue is stopping water charges…”
The political hypocrisy, in other words, represents a popular hypocrisy. We don’t want “migrants” living beside us; we don’t want them to drown; we also don’t want to intervene in their countries to stop crazed despotic lunatics driving them into the sea – literally. Each and every one of us (me included of course) is guilty somewhere along that line, and it ends up being a collective excuse to do nothing.
There is not much to write about this that has not been written elsewhere (although I have signed this).
However, one thing does occur to me: this issue, the biggest European humanitarian crisis this century, should be top of any legislative chamber’s agenda. Far from engaging in silly games or even wasting time on reports which are no longer relevant, our own Assembly should be preparing assistance. That could come in the form of planning to take a certain number of refugees; allocating Social Investment Fund money to assist; or even simply offering security and administrative assistance to help with applications.
On the island of Ireland in particular, we like to think of ourselves as caring, friendly, hospitable people. Yet, as usual, in both jurisdictions, we are obsessed with ourselves and ignorant of the wider world. It will not even have occurred to anyone to offer practical assistance.
Imagine what a Northern Ireland Assembly motion, unanimously passed, saying we will take 10,000 refugees (or however many; Germany, proportionately, is assessing 22,000) in Northern Ireland, would do to the debate!
But ah no, let’s just wait for everyone else to do things while we just moan.
Test failed. Catastrophically.