Concerns over ‘foreigners’ are pathetic excuses for racism

It must take a galling amount of ignorant hatred to find it justifiable to set fire to a hotel earmarked for a group of people who have risked their lives, left behind their worldly possessions and their families to flee violence, war, or persecution, writes Elaine Loughlin.

Ireland of a thousand welcomes... Yeah right.

Garda forensics specialists examine the scene yesterday at the fire-damaged former Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey on the Leitrim/Roscommon border. Photo: Brian Farrell

Those living in rural Ireland often vocally, and quite rightly, lament the demise of the many villages and small towns dotted around the country which have seen their post office shut, their garda station close, and their local primary school struggle to keep its two or three teachers because of plummeting enrolments.

The arrival of new families into any area — but especially rural communities which make much ado about the near extinction of children — you would imagine would be welcome.

Not in Ireland, where people would rather burn down vacant hotels than fill these property eyesores with ‘those foreigners’.

Those ‘foreigners’ who are seeking asylum here were doctors, teachers, engineers, students, and shopkeepers in a previous life, who, through no fault of their own, were born in a country or region that is now being ripped apart by turmoil and chaos.

Communities, whether it be in Donegal, Wicklow, Roscommon, or Leitrim, time and time again cite concerns around the lack of a plan to help the newcomers assimilate, the short notice given to locals, or the loss of a hotel which historically acted as a focal point.

But these concerns must be exposed for what they truly are — fake and pathetic excuses for out and out racism.

And local representatives and politicians pander to these views by hitting out at the Government’s poor process of consultation with local communities.

While initially condemning the fire in Rooskey, Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy in the same statement called for an end to the current asylum seeker system of “railroading them into small rural villages around the country”.

“The Government’s approach of pushing refugees and asylum seekers into small towns around rural Ireland is simply not working,” said Mr Murphy. “Many of these small rural towns are already on their knees and the necessary infrastructure from a transport, educational, and health aspect are just not in place and the Government needs to take responsibility for the lack of judgement in relation to this whole approach.”

It begs the question, would any local representative hit out at a private contractor over a lack of consultation if they bought a boarded-up hotel and decided to turn it into an apartment complex?

It’s worth noting that the most globally recognised man to have ever walked this earth was a migrant.

Referring to the migrant crisis in 2016, Pope Francis said: “The sad experience of these brothers and sisters recalls that of baby Jesus, who at the time of his birth could not find a place to stay when he was born in Bethlehem.

“He was then taken to Egypt to escape threats from Herod.”

How would Mary and Joseph have felt if they had arrived at the stable to find a few bigoted thugs had torched it?

Regardless of whether you have a faith or not, you must accept that such an act would have changed the course of humanity and not just for generations but millennia.

Change of any sort is daunting, it’s understandable that people are wary and sometimes scared of change.

But change can also be hugely positive, especially when we embrace it.

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