Why are we allowing Clare residents to dictate national asylum seeker policy?
"This is a classic example of 'anywhere but my own backyard'".
From demanding a meeting with the Taoiseach, to carrying out head counts on asylum seekers and refusing to lift their blockade, the residents of Inch, Co. Clare have somehow managed to become the nation's preeminent voices on asylum seeker policy.
As we reach the fifth day of this rather embarrassing debacle, this small rural community still maintain the blockade they erected around Magowna House Hotel on Monday evening in an effort to prevent the arrival of additional asylum seekers.
Initially claiming that their acts were simply out of anger over a lack of prior knowledge regarding asylum seekers' arrival in their town, that excuse has long since been proven false.
Having been given ample opportunity to row back on their protests, the small rural community have instead only further entrenched themselves against the arrival of refugees to their town.
"We are very far from racist. We are a very welcoming community. It is extremely upsetting what is happening. I should be at work today. It is not fair on them (asylum seekers) and it is not fair on us", said one protester on Tuesday.
Yet, it is now Friday, and the protesters remain. Even despite having been appeased to the nth degree, their charade persists.
The government's response:
These events in rural Clare have served once again to highlight the inadequacies evident within the coalition government, as politicians supposedly in the same corner take wildly varying stances, deviating from the party line and failing to present a united front.
On Wednesday, Integration Minister Roderic O'Gorman rightly stood firm by refusing protesters' demands to travel to Inch to meet with the local community face to face, instead resolutely insisting that Magowna House Hotel would continue to be used for housing refugees.
However, the following day, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar provided a wholly different response to protesters, when stating that he would "give consideration" to meeting them.
So, despite saying that nobody in the country had the right to say "this is my patch, we don't want people like that (asylum seekers) in my area", the Fine Gael leader immediately bowed to the pressure of a small rural community on the western seaboard.
It is quite an embarrassing state of affairs when the supposed leader of the nation, who is supposed to exude power and authority, deems it acceptable to bend to the whims of a small disgruntled community.
A community who it should be noted, are in the wrong themselves. Their initial fears have been assuaged, with Ministers agreeing to a four-week notice period ahead of the next arrival of refugees, a more than ample period to prepare for the assimilation.
However, this proposal was rejected by Inch residents and the blockade remains, therefore proving their actions are down to more than just a governmental oversight and lack of forewarning.
The next step for Magowna House Hotel:
The government was right to initially hear the concerns of the local area. The residents of Inch deserved proper notice of the arrival of 34 refugees into their small community.
However, having already allayed their initial concerns only to now be met with further resistance, it is time for the government to take a stand and prove it is they who dictate refugee policy in this country, not a small rural Clare community.
This is a classic example of 'anywhere but my own backyard', with people more than willing to support the concept of aiding asylum seekers until push comes to shove and they land down the road from them.
But this can't allowed to be seen as an acceptable reaction, because quite frankly, it's not.
The irony of any Irish person holding disdain against a person fleeing either political or economic hardship is astounding, as we sit on the precipice of Europe looking out across all corners of the globe to where our own people have journeyed in search of a better life.
If the residents in Inch are successful in their ploy to intimidate the asylum seekers already in situ, and in turn prevent the imminent arrival of any more, then we will be seeing weekly occurrences of blockades springing up across the country whenever a local community disagrees with a coalition decision.
An ultimatum must be delivered to the people of Inch, remove the blockade themselves or see it forcibly removed.
If the situation in Inch is not soon rectified, then it will leave a lasting legacy far greater than just further tarnishing the public perception of this already weary looking government.
It risks eroding Ireland's most prized moniker; and leaving the land of one hundred thousand welcomes no more.
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