“Céad Míle Fáilte!”. These words we see sprawled across billboards and imprinted on knic-knacs and novelty items. But Rosie O’Keeffe asks is it time that we started to live up to our iconic tagline?
Borders. We have all experienced them; the physical kind that separate us from neighbouring countries; the symbolic ones that govern our behaviour; even virtual borders exist that you might use to frame an Instagram picture. We have all experienced these and yet, certain borders have recently been associated with tragedy, destruction and even death.
Borders have been made a topic of discussion in the media lately, as I’m sure most of you are aware, in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis. The distressing picture of the Syrian child washed up like litter on a Turkish beach that stormed the World’s media finally made us sit up and take notice of a horrific problem that had been ongoing under our noses. Would anything have been reported if it were not for that poignant image? The answer to that question is perhaps too grim to speculate on.
The civil war within Syria is well into its fifth year and shows no sign of submission. Men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and a better quality of life. The result of this mass movement is that Europe has been flooded with thousands of refugees. Countries like Italy, Germany and Greece have opened up their borders to these people and have allowed them to seek refuge in their land. Risks of ISIS members being smuggled in amongst them have been noted and cast aside. Integration schemes are well underway. Voluntary organisations are working overtime to provide food and clothing. These countries are giving hope to the people of Syria. When a mother puts her child on a boat to make the treacherous journey overseas, she has faith that it will not be in vain.
Ireland has plans to allow four thousand refugees to seek asylum here. A small figure in comparison to other European countries, but a figure nonetheless. However this news has sparked a divided response among the Irish people, and some would rather we close our borders to the refugees completely.
‘What about our own?’ they say. ‘How can we house all these people when we can’t even house the nation?’ Although it is true that Ireland is experiencing extremely high levels of homelessness as of late, the two crises are completely separate. Letting people seek asylum in Ireland won’t prevent charities like Simon and SVP from continuing their good work in helping the homeless. Their goals will remain the same, their commitment levels will not drop. The risk that we will be infiltrated with members of ISIS and terrorists is also, in my personal opinion, an unfounded fear. We take that risk with every flight that comes into Dublin airport, and for every twenty people that come in there’s still a possibility that ten of them are terrorists. There will always be that risk. If we need any more persuasion as to why we should open our borders to these people, we need not look any further than our own past. What would we have done, if in the midst of famine during the 1800s, America had closed their doors on the one million people that fled across the sea?
We have a nationwide reputation for our welcoming nature – we now need to show this more than ever.