For mainstream politicians the deaths proved that there is no situation that they will not exploit for their own hypocritical purposes. Minister for 'Justice', John O'Donoghue turned up in Wexford crying crocodile tears, conveniently ignoring the fact that at the very same time a seven-month pregnant Nigerian woman was being held in Mountjoy prison by his 'justice system' awaiting deportation. He also forgot to mention that had the 8 made it into the country alive, their most likely fate would be deportation back to where they had come from.
Meanwhile Taoiseach Bertie Ahern pledged that those responsible for the deaths would be hunted down and that "no effort would be spared‚ to bring them to justice". If only he had meant it, it could have been the quickest ever arrests in the history of the Gardai. The person directly responsible for the deaths - along with his counterparts throughout the European Union - was none other than Bertie's cabinet colleague, Mr. O'Donoghue.
It is as a direct consequence of the 'Fortress Europe' policies of the EU governments that people have to put themselves in the position of attempting to smuggle themselves into Europe in such dangerous situations. As the picket organised by the Anti-Racism Campaign to mark the deaths asked "If asylum is a human right, how come people have to die trying to claim it?"
Of course it is as a result of the neo-liberal economic policies of western governments that the number of people seeking to make it to the EU or the USA from the developing world is increasing. This latest phase of capitalist development has not only resulted in a widening gap between the rich and the poor in countries such as Ireland but has also vastly increased the gap in wealth between the 'developed' and 'developing' worlds. This has had the obvious consequence of forcing people to leave their home countries and come in search of a decent standard of living in the areas where the wealth is perceived to be. Coupled with this is the fact that there are large numbers of displaced people as a result of wars, civil and religious unrest etc., and people fleeing despotic regimes - people for whom it is literally a matter of life and death whether or not they make it into the relative safety of Europe or the US.
Throughout the 1980s Irish people were forced to emigrate in search of economic survival. Tens of thousands of us headed for the USA or Australia. Most went illegally‚ and worked in the black economy, often sending money back to those left at home. Are we now going to stand idly by and allow people who are doing exactly the same thing to be exploited, insulted, deported and killed by the architects of 'Fortress Europe'?
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This edition is No68 published in Jan 2002