25 November 1999 Edition

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No confidence in O'Donoghue on asylum

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin supported the vote of no confidence in Justice Minister John O'Donoghue in the Dáil on Wednesday night, 24 November. He backed the motion on the basis of the government's failure on the issue of refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants.

During the course of his speech, O Caoláin said:

``I support this motion and I agree with Minister of State O'Donnell that this government's policy on asylum-seekers is chaotic and a shambles. It is worse - it is an international disgrace to this country. The shameful scenes at the Refugee Application Centre here in Dublin have been reminiscent of the experience of the huddled masses of Irish emigrants of the past at Ellis Island in New York.

``The chaos is attributable totally to the failure of this government to address the issue of asylum-seekers and immigration in a courageous and comprehensive manner. I say courageous because what is needed is political leadership. What have we had instead? We have had the Deportation Bill, we have had the unworkable and strictly limited work permit procedures which have failed to operate, we have had the outrageous proposal to mimic the British government and introduce a degrading voucher scheme to replace welfare payments to asylum-seekers. And we have had the statements of Deputy Ivor Callely.

``Deputy Callely, as chairperson of a Health Board charged with the welfare of asylum seekers, and as a public representative, has acted with great irresponsibility. Equally unacceptable are the comments of Deputy Noel Ahern about people `rightly or wrongly who feel threatened by them and who feel they are in competition with them for housing and jobs'. This is cynical playing to a gallery of prejudice. It is the opposite of political leadership.

``The Minister too has made his contribution with his repeated references to waves of refugees and the danger of our being overwhelmed. Language such as this serves to confirm prejudices based on ignorance which are growing like weeds in our midst.

``This State needs a fair immigration policy which gives access to people of diverse geographical, social, economic and ethnic origins to come and work in our economy where their skills and their labour is needed. Instead of this we have a woefully inadequate asylum policy and no immigration policy at all.

``The responsibility for the failure to address this worsening problem lies squarely with the minister. There can be no excuse for this failure after over three years of this administration. The minister would have the full support of all parties in this House if he brought forward humane and just policies and legislation to deal comprehensively with immigration and asylum. He has not done so, and he shows no signs of doing and I have no option therefore but to support this motion of no confidence.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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