If a girl or boy is born in this country, do they have the right to Irish citizenship? If a person approaches a Casualty Dept at a hospital and asks for help, should the nurse or doctor have the right to deny assistance if that person doesn't have 'proper papers'? The two scenarios described here might seem extreme or 'off the wall', but if John O'Donoghue has his way, both of the above questions will become very relevant in the Ireland of tomorrow. Fundamental changes to Irish citizenship law, along with a policy of criminalising asylum-seekers, are the central planks of a new Government initiative designed to make Ireland 'water-tight' on this issue of immigration.
If you are already blinking in disbelief at the above, it is probably worth noting at this point that the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Asylum, Immigration and Related Matters (in which the above proposed changes are set out) currently has all party support in the Dáil. Yes, it is true! Consequently a White Paper on legislation arising from the Report is expected later this year, and given the existence of all-party support, some, if not all parts, of the Report could become law shortly afterwards.
The Report has a wide range of other proposals. Apart from ruling out an amnesty for current asylum seekers, it imposes penalties against employers who give work to asylum-seekers, and it also proposes changes to the basis for citizenship through marriage (effectively making citizenship through marriage extremely difficult to obtain). Yet for all this, it is the fact that the Report has all party support that is most worrying. How, in this day and age, and particularly given our history of emigration, can so many politicians be so callous towards asylum-seekers and refugees? A while back they had no problem selling passports to the highest bidder, now the most vulnerable must be bludgeoned with new racist laws.
Immigrant Solidarity, together with a number of other pro-immigrant groups, has already declared its complete opposition to the new racist proposals. We have also begun the work of calling a national campaign to oppose the new proposed changes to the law. While point out that "the first objective of the campaign should be to stop the legislation becoming law", Immigrant Solidarity is also arguing for a campaign of "non-compliance by workers in the categories described under the Report in the event that the new racist legislation is enacted". If history tells us anything, it is that racist laws must be stopped from day 1 - unjust laws must be broken.
Immigrant Solidarity is one of a growing number of anti-racist organisations in Ireland. Other organisations and campaigns we are in contact with are:
Mid West Against Racism
King's Island Youth & Community Development CentreVerdant PlaceKing's IslandLimerickActive in the mid-West region. Has organised protests in Limerick, Ennis and Killarney. Publishes a regular newsletter (available from the above address; include stamps to cover postage); meets every Wednesday at 7 pm at the above address.
c/o 10 Upper Camden Street,Dublin 2
One of the most active groups. Has been at the forefront of anti-racist work in Dublin. Meets every Wednesday at 8 pm in the Vietnamese Centre, Hardwicke Street.
Immigrant Solidarity took the "No Racism, No Deportations" campaign to the Minister for Justice's own stomping ground this summer. We decided that it was high time to tell the Minister in person that the majority of Irish people oppose his on-going policy of deporting asylum seekers. We also wanted to voice our opposition to the planned changes in immigration legislation, and to raise awareness in relation to the Government's proposals.
A picket was placed on O'Donoghue's constituency clinic in Killarney on the last Saturday in June. It was organised in conjunction with the Killarney branch of Amnesty International and the Limerick-based anti-racism/anti-deportation group Mid-West Against Racism. The protest attracted considerable media attention with reporters and photographers from local radio and newspapers coming along and interviewing spokespeople. The picket was a definite success in terms of raising the issue of immigration in "The Kingdom", and the profile of the campaign generally.
Perhaps not surprisingly O'Donoghue did not attend his clinic that week! Apparently he was not happy that such a protest would take place in Killarney. The Kerryman quoted him as saying that he had "no problem with peaceful protest but that Saturday's protest was unwarranted". Having gotten the Minister's attention, Immigrant Solidarity resolved to return with bigger numbers later in the summer.
The second picket on O'Donoghue's constituency clinic took place in August. This time thirty people protested with activists travelling from Cork, Limerick (MWAR) and Dublin (Anti-Racist Campaign) to make their voices heard. Again O'Donoghue failed to show his face. Following the picket we marched through the town centre, distributing leaflets to passers by.
Having declared the protest a success, we retired to bask in the sun and splendour of Killarney National Park. Here the three groups discussed plans for a national campaign to oppose the Government plans to change immigration legislation.
Immigrant Solidarity plans to place regular pickets on O'Donoghue's clinic. If you want to join us in opposing O'Donoghue's actions, make contact with the group and we'll fill you in on the details of the next picket.
With depressing predictability, racist "slogans" and abuse have begun to appear on strategic garage walls and street corners in this fair land of a thousand (qualified) welcomes. Oh God.
Of course they have. It makes perfect sense. The ones responsible for this are people. People are stupid. Hence, they are writing stupid things, QED. How could it be any other way?
The other unsurprising aspect of the whole sad affair is the utter lack of any imagination or originality. The submorons have obviously decided to stick with the tried and tested: old favourites like "white power" or the charming "nigger's out" (don't they teach any punctuation in school anymore?), bookended with one or two stylish and eye-catching swastikas. "Well, you know, we wanted an image that people could identify with. Something familiar and well-known. I mean, our product has been around for a very long time, and we wanted to convey to people our long-established traditions and commitment to excellence. So we chose the recurring swastika motif along with a catchy slogan in white spray-paint."
Surely there is some scope for improvement here. How about, "I have no job so I'm going to take it out on the foreigners who I imagine have taken it"? No? Okay, then, "What else is there to do on a Friday night?" Or maybe, "Racism brings meaning to my life". This could actually be the root cause of all this trouble. In the chaotic '90's, where the parameters of meaning have been shifted so far that they've become invisible, dressing up in a pointy hat and bonding with your fellow Teutons may be the only way to bring order and a sense of purpose. I am a bigot, therefore I am.
The funniest thing (and not in a ha ha kind of way) of all is that it's happening in Ireland. Forget the fact that there are millions of Irish immigrants scattered all over the place, or the pride we take in the cordial welcomes we extend to tourists and multinationals hungry for a tax-break. Forget even the fact that we are not Aryan supermen, and are not seen as such by…well, other Aryan supermen (I'm pretty sure Hitler lumped the Celts in the same evolutionary pile as the Ape-People of the Andes and homosexual communists).
No, we can delude ourselves and be hypocritical up to a point. But only a point. History doesn't lie, and facts don't either (except sometimes, when they do). And the fact remains that Ireland was colonised for over 700 years. That has to be some kind of world record. Before Europe decimated Africa, before Columbus "claimed" the Americas for the Queen of Spain, before the Renaissance, Reformation, invention of the printing press, Bubonic plague and the writing of Greensleeves, Ireland was under the authority of another people.
Ireland was a colony before the term was even coined. "Okay, so we've got baronies, fiefdoms, counties and realms. But what the bloody hell do we call this Yrelande?" We are the world champions of being taken over and the Nobel laureates in getting our butts kicked. So maybe the next time the Irish Nazi Association are about to distribute leaflets arguing that "blacks are the scum of the British Empire", someone should take them aside and point out that, in fact, we are the scum of the British Empire - we spent longer under the cosh than all the blacks and Asians we now blame for our unemployment, confusion, lack of self-esteem, or whatever.
Or maybe that person could point out that neither of us are "scum": that we were both victims of white greed and self-aggrandisement; that perhaps we should empathise with our fellow colonised instead of victimising them again; that two wrongs don't make a happy white.
Immigrant Solidarity, a broad Cork based democratic organisation, was formed in January 1998 by a group of concerned individuals appalled by the marked increase in racist agitation and propaganda in Irish society. Aine ni Chonaill's Immigration Control Platform was especially seen as being in the vanguard of this dangerous activity, which seemed to be shaping government policy towards asylum seekers.
Thus the group's most important initial aim was to counter ni Chonaill's spurious immigrant baiting which sections of the Irish media had decided to give excessive coverage to. Immigrant Solidarity was now committed to picket events at which ni Chonaill or any other Immigration Control Platform representative spoke. Successful and empowering protests were held in Ennis (where ni Chonaill held her first press conference), University College Cork, and Togher. These pickets not only showed that there were Irish men and women willing to welcome immigrants and stand up to racist lies, they also provided opportunities for the group to garner support and increase it's membership.
With the Minister of Justice championing racist and draconian immigration restrictions and the spectre of deportations firmly on our doorstep, Immigrant Solidarity along with other Irish anti- racist groups organised a National Day of Action on Saturday April 25th. In Cork over 400 people marched under the Immigrant Solidarity banner to show their outrage at the inhumane and fascistic treatment of refugees.
Over the last couple of months Immigrant Solidarity has continued the fight for immigrants rights and has remained committed to rebutting often inaccurate and incendiary media reports. However Irish anti-racist groups, including Immigrant Solidarity, now face their biggest challenge, to defeat the upcoming racist Immigration legislation which plans to destroy the dream of an inclusive and multi-ethnic Irish society.
Ross O' Sullivan.
Immigrant Solidarity is a voluntary, non - party political group dedicated to protecting the rights of all refugees and immigrants, and combating the growth of racism and prejudice in Ireland. The group welcomes all new members, regardless of political, social, religious or ethnic distinctions.
The group has five main points:
1.Immigrant Solidarity demands the right to Citizenship of Ireland for all children born in this country, irrespective of the nationality of their parents.
2.Immigrant Solidarity supports the right of immigrants to seek meaningful, well-paid employment. It also denounces the prosecution of employers who offer work to immigrants.
3.Immigrant Solidarity demands confidentiality for immigrants in dealings with Civil Service officers, and strongly criticises any reporting of cases to the Ministry of Justice by the aforementioned officers.
4.Immigrant Solidarity feels that immigrants and refugees are being made scapegoats by the authorities and, to a lesser extent, by the population at large, for the deficiencies of the "Celtic Tiger" with regard to housing, employment, education and other opportunities. The group also deplores all physical and psychological abuse inflicted on non-whites, whether immigrants or Irish citizens.
5.Immigrant Solidarity opposes all deportations of non-nationals on any grounds.
It's never been cheap to phone Dublin, especially during business hours. But recently, in a fit of sanity, the Minister for Finance introduced a LoCall number service that allows calls to a Government Dept to be made from outside Dublin for the price of a local call. In other words, John O'Donoghue is now just the price of a local call away. The new LoCall number for the Dept of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is 1-890-221227. Ask for the Minister's Office when you get through. Make a complaint about the new racist proposal. Demand an end to deportations. Request that your message be brought to the attention of John O'Donoghue. Remember, unless otherwise advised, John O'Donoghue is acting in our name.
In July of this year, Roman Adashkevich was given 12 hours to pack his bags and leave Ennis. You might ask, by whom? Local criminals? Someone with a vendetta? In fact the order came from the Dept of Justice - none other than John O'Donoghue. Despite the fact that Roman had been living happily in Ennis with his partner for quite some time, when he went to the local Garda Station to inquire about the order against him he was immediately handcuffed and denied the right to contact the Irish Refugee Council. Shortly afterwards he was put on a plane to Moscow. His partner barely had time to give him clothes and money for the journey - a journey that may well separate these two people for life.
If John O'Donoghue and the Dept of Justice have their way, Roman's fate will become a common feature of life on this island over the next year. With the Government's position hardening towards asylum-seekers, all the indicators point to a new and sustained round of deportations. Instead of helping asylum-seekers, it now seems probable that Ireland will join the ranks of those countries who have abandoned ordinary decent human values. This will mean brutal and unjust deportations! This will mean the forcible removal of asylum-seekers from this country!
Immigrant Solidarity is committed to fighting deportations. We believe the deportations can be stopped, but only if enough people stand up and say no to the Government. We believed the people of Ireland do not support racist laws and racist measures.
To stop the deportations we need your help and participation. We need all sort of assistance - from help with fund-raising to help with mail-outs, to help with postering. Every little bit counts. So if you want to become involved, tick one of the boxes below and return the coupon
·I would like to become a member. Send me details.
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