On Tuesday night, the Not On Our Watch campaign held a vigil outside the Dáil. The vigil, a couple of hundred people strong, took place before and during a Dáil discussion on the campaign’s call for Ireland to take in 200 unaccompanied children from the Calais refugee camp.
So far, one could say that Ireland’s reaction to the refugee crisis has been much less than adequate, and activists for the campaign have expressed how disheartened they are with this government’s almost non-existent response. Over the past two years, the government has pledged to help refugee children and families but how remains to be seen.
TheCity.ie reporter Jack Popeley went to the vigil and talked to some of the people who attended to see what they had to say.
Brian Condra, SIPTU Global Solidarity
“A little over a month ago, we went to the Jungle refugee camp to see the state of it for ourselves. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve seen. I’m 45 years of age and I’ve never seen something so dilapidated and soul destroying, so I’m here in solidarity with everyone else tonight to say to the government that Ireland needs to do our bit.”
Rory, aged 34
“I’m here just to support the campaign, and show solidarity with the refugees in general. This problem we have in Europe, it doesn’t seem Ireland are doing as much as we should at the moment, and this is a good opportunity to play our part and show solidarity with the other countries in Europe who are struggling, yet seem to be performing better than Ireland. Hopefully a bill will be passed.”
Damian McCormack, Doctor
“I’ve visited Calais and Greece and I’ve come to know a lot of the people there who are just like us, and what’s happening in Calais now is an atrocity and I’m here to protest it. The Irish government need to do something immediately.”
Jackie Gilbern, Synge Street
“I just think that it’s an absolute disgrace that there has been no attention paid to these children. We should do something about it, we have to do something about it – it isn’t morally right, and it is inhuman to expect these children to fend for themselves while our government turn a blind eye, it’s totally wrong.”
Nick Henderson, CEO Irish Refugee Council
“I’m here today to support this initiative and this organisation’s work and efforts in trying to get the government to do the right thing, really [and] that is to recognise that there is a humanitarian emergency in Calais, as well as elsewhere in Europe, and Ireland can show leadership and make a real stand to assist other countries in Europe, and take vulnerable children who have had to leave their countries because of war and conflict and persecution, that we can offer them a safe haven for a period of their lives.”
Jan Boyle, Solicitor
“I’ve been working in the area of immigration law in Ireland for the last 11 years, and I think it’s hugely important that the government accept the minimum of 200 children. I think it’s a smaller amount of children to take in in the grand scheme of things. We have accepted people before by way of programme refugees, and we should certainly reach out in this moment. I’m very proud to stand here this evening with my two year old son and I hope to bring him up in a better Ireland.”