|Moville, Inishowen, Co Donegal with the Caiseal Mara Hotel, large central building|
Things are moving fast on this story that by the time I finish the article there will probably be more dramatic twists to it. The controversy surrounds a bombshell in the press earlier this month that the Department of Justice and Equality Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) was setting up a Direct Provision centre to cater for 100 asylum seekers in the 40 bedroom Caiseal Mara Hotel in Moville, County Donegal and it could open in few weeks time.
You can imagine how this announcement affected the small seaside town of 1300 people in this remote northern part of Ireland. This decision by the Government has resulted in dividing the community in Moville and there are some angry people on both sides. However, I can say that there is a lot of people with obvious and legitimate concerns and questions. Unfortunately these issues are either being ignored or cleverly managed. The plan to turn the former hotel in the town centre into a Direct Provision centre was so secret that even the local representatives said they were not aware of it even though it was in the pipeline for months overseen by Government and Donegal planning authority. This official deception seems to be a trait in the Government’s handling of the issue of Asylum Seekers. In fact what has happened in Moville has been happening all over the country where local people are informed at the last minute. Its as if this must be the official Government policy. If this is the case who and when was this decision, not to inform locals, taken?
This article is a personal view of how I see the issue on the ground and from what I see there’s more to it than meets the eye. The more I read into the whole issue of Ireland’s and the EU’s immigration policy the more I see grave concerns. However, it is the problem with the Moville plan that I see as immediate. Perhaps by highlighting this wrong we can highlight the overall corruption of technocratic fortress Europe.
I am aware that the matter is a minefield of sensitivities, prejudices, political manipulation, agendas, racism, populism, political correctness, religion and possibly a touch of fundamentalism and that there are groups right, left and center and even religious ready to exploit the situation. Sometimes we can sail pretty close to the wind of extremism but the funny things is that there are some grains of truth in the phenomenon of Populism. Unfortunately in the clamour of the right and left or the entrenchment of fundamentalism one little thing is overlooked. People are disempowered. As for the Establishment it is a deliberate, calculated policy, misinformation leading to divide and conquer.
Alternative views must be allowed to be express even though they might offend some. Unfortunately, in this case, legitimate objections are being portrayed as extreme. No matter how sensitive a subject is, it is better for us all to be allowed to express ourselves in an impartial environment and to be informed without manipulation or force. It is disingenuous not to acknowledge and to blow it out of all proportions.
Public Meeting in Moville
People in the area and even the wider Inishowen peninsula have not got to grips with the news yet and it seems their many concerns and questions are not being addressed. It is said ignorance breeds contempt and for sure this is proving the case. This is evident from talking to people, from reading social media and the mainstream media. You can read quite a good article about the concerns local people have about the Direct Provision centre plans for Moville in this Irish Independent article We're being sold a pup and our good nature exploited .
It concerned a public meeting that was held in the town on November 24. I was at that meeting which was billed an information evening. It was held in the Presbyterian hall and apparently it was arranged by locals and not the Department. If that’s the case it kind of shows the commitment from the Government. At the top table were 3 RIA officials, a Presbyterian minister and local politicians. In my view the meeting seemed to be a bit choreographed. There was quite a bit of sermonising from the clergy present and from members of local wellcoming groups set up a few days beforehand, all of whom welcomed the plan. In the audience were clergy, professionals such as school teachers, doctors, local business people and other Inishowen welcoming groups. No doubt, those who supported the plan are well intentioned but I found their content patronising. Taking the moral high ground tends to stifle debate. It is not constructive. People shy away for fear of judgement and being labelled.
Nevertheless there were some constructive questions and comments from the floor and generally people managed to convey their feelings. One thing that stood out though was the defiant answer from a RIA official which was that the plan was a ″done deal″. That and the emphatic way he delivered it seemed to have shocked people. A few other things that were found out was that the Centre will be run as a business by a ‘Contractor’ who is contracted under EU legislation for a year. After that it will go out to tender again but apparently at that time any business in the EU can apply. This means that potentially it can be moved to another county or even EU country. There will not be any extra resources provided by RIA and the existing the resources in the area will be provided by local agencies. It was pointed out that existing resources in the area was basic already. Anyone who knows the area will be aware how deprived it is. The centre will cater for approx 100 residents, 60% will be single males. Another concern brought up was the effect that that number of people in one area with varying traumas and needs would have on the small town. These concerns were explained by a doctor and teacher in the audience. I think it was a shock to hear that no multi disciplinary structure was planned and it seemed that the Government was working on a wing and a prayer, RIA emphasising the importance of the volunteer sector.
There was an interesting contribution from the top table at the end of the meeting. Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, SF, informed the meeting that they should not believe everything the officials tell them. He said that his involvement with the issue in the Oireachtas revealed a completely different story than what the Government is trying to convey and that in fact there are a number of calls for the existing Direct Provision system to be scrapped. It is not fit for purpose.
Indeed if you do a quick internet search on Ireland’s Direct Provision system, you do you will find a hornets nest of corruption. I suppose it can be argued that it all depend on who you believe, however, because of the importance of the subject itself and the humanitarian emphasise professed by the defenders of the Direct Provision scheme it is fitting to at least do it. Have a look at NASC: the Imigration Support Centre in Ireland website, an Irish voluntary group set up to help refugees and asylum seekers. Then there’s a good article about the business side of Direct Provision that can be found in Socialist Worker: Direct Provision A Lucrative Business, a short article on the financing and the profits being made. And here, the most damning indictment of all in Jacobine magazine: Europen Union Migration Border Criminalization Refugees, a damning report on EU migration policies. It accuses the EU of colluding with dictators, fuelling trafficking and criminalising refugees. It states;
The EU mounts significant PR efforts to disguise and sell its border regime as humanitarianism. But an analysis of the limits it imposes on the free movement of people from the Global South, its treatment of refugees, its approach to border enforcement, its deals with Third World countries including dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, and its criminalization of migrants and refugees within its member states, reveals the true nature of the EU’s migration policies. They are founded on the dehumanization of black and brown people, with the objective of preserving a political and socioeconomic order designed to maintain the dominance of a small minority at the expense of the rest of the world.
The main reservations that people had at the meeting and in general were nothing to do with refusing asylum seekers but were more to do with: the numbers in one place, the resources in the area, the remoteness of Moville, the business aspect of the enterprise, the conditions in the premises, safety, health and not least a lot of anger was directed at the government for the way they have handled the whole process.
The secretive planning by the Government in Moville appears to be nothing new. The following Kerry Today radio program in December 2017 New 55 Bed Direct Provision Centre For Killarney talks about a centre in Killarney but they could have been talking about Moville in 2018. It would indicate that the policy of keeping people ignorant is a deliberate one. If that is the case then it is pretty damning.
It is obvious to me that this issue would be a great opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the EU and Ireland’s policy or their complicity in war. If exposing and doing something about the causes of the crisis is not part of the solution then I can only conclude that the policy of Direct Provision is only a cover up.
Unfortunately events took a sinister twist last Friday when there was a fire in the front foyer of the Caiseal Mara Hotel. Garda are treating it as arson. However, it has to be emphasised that the full facts about the fire are not known. This little fact has not stopped many people including community leaders jumping to conclusions. The incident and indeed the reaction to it has now clouded the issue. You can imagine no one wants to be associated with that. Accusations are flying around social media and some mainstream media are, in my view, laying it on a bit thick ‘Arson Outrage’. It is now being used as a kind of emotional battering ram to galvanise support for the centre. Government Ministers, RIA, local officials and clergy have all condemned it using emotive language like - acts like this won’t derail the project, defiantly stating that it will go ahead. Is this not irresponsible? What is wrong with innocent until proven guilty? What people should say is the fire is not the issue, the issue is Government’s undemocratic decisions and it’s wider complicity in EU’s immigration policies.
|Placards read solidarity with Moville, Not sure who is being supported here.|
Right and Left Political Football
The fire has now become a political football and has gone national. Both the far left and far right are at at each other’s throats online. Have a read of the comments on Political Irish Hotel Extensively damaged . In the midst of all this anger everyone locally is hunkering down, not wanting to be seen to criticise for fear of being associated with all the labels thrown at them. Animosity and condescension was bad enough before the fire from the do-gooders but now anyone showing any kind of opposition is branded scum, fascist, racist, inhuman, degrading and it goes on. Mana readily falling off the tongues of the politically correct.
‘No Paseran’ used to be the cry in the hillsides nowadays it’s ‘Negativity’
It’s not a new buzzword but over the last couple of weeks I have been hearing platitudes like the Inishowen people are mostly not like this or that, that this is an idyllic spot where the majority of people are friendly, welcoming, kind and generous and there are calls for negative people need not apply. If I was, say, a sensitive soul I might be thinking, Jesus, am I one of this malcontent minority, the backwoods man?
What’s is the psychology anyway behind this drive for positivity? Is it a type of mantra or positive prayer where repeating it will enter the rebel’s subconscious? Maybe it’s a form of muzzle to silence criticism - no negativity allowed. This repeated reference to the positive side of Inishowen people seem to me like a tourist brochures or speel from civil servants or politicians, or an incantation from the pulpit. It’s like a two edge sword, on the one hand selling a particular image and on the other stamping out dissatisfaction.
Nobody wants to be on the loosing side. It’s a bit like the football team circle before a tournament. If the opposition is not getting the negativity treatment then the big guns are rolled out. Labels like racist, misogynist, fascist are flung willy nilly from the mouths of the politically correct. Once labelled, that’s you ostracised.
However, the thing is, I know it’s not true. There’s a lot more discontents like me around the hills of Donegal. I’m a 60 odd year old white male, probably stuck in my ways by this stage, brainwashed by religion, conditioned by a draconian education system and constantly at the mercy of white imperialist propaganda where third world Gooks and Niggers are portrayed as inhuman, lazy, heathens and Christ, it’s OK to kill them. Then on the other hand I have been cocooned in stories of baby Jesus, forgiveness, pity the poor and turn the other cheek. It’s like a good cop bad cop routine. It’s no wonder I’m a mixed up malcontent. There are many people like this up here that have lived most of their lives in the same environment, surviving in a very oppressive Irish political culture where we have seen sectarianism, inequality, people being slaughtered or depicted as inhuman. We have put up with quite a bit of crap it’s time not to turn the other cheek.
The establishment can turn this propaganda tap on and off to suit their agenda. It will keep dissent in line where the plebs don’t know what’s true or false, bad or good. One minute foreigners are coming to rape your children, next they are poor unfortunate human beings. Are we supposed to believe the PR that the majority of us are nice and kind and that the establishment is really interested in human beings? Not on your nelly. I think it’s more logical that there are more like me with a backlog of anomalies that demand answers. And I don’t think the type of conditioning is really age specific, younger people nowadays are bombarded with it today.
In my opinion it is not surprising that labels work and the good cop, bad cop routine keeps repeating itself. It’s a bit depressing, isn’t it? However, the positive side is I don’t buy it and I am glad to see there’s a lot more locals that aren’t too.
I don’t buy this Government’s or EU benevolence, I don’t buy that by criticising the Direct Provision plan for Moville that we are racist. I don’t buy that we are being negative by demanding a say in local affairs. I don’t buy that we are less humane. I don’t buy that we should support a bad system.
What I do believe, though, is that we have a right to our opinions and to demand consultation, to make informed decisions and to have a sense of empowerment by refusing downright bad policies. Maybe instead of right and left indoctrination, moralist lectures, denial and PR, we should acknowledge our faults and prejudices, discuss them openly, question more and not be so gullible. In this way, together, we might highlight the government’s corrupted policies.
➽James Quigley is a community political activist who blogs @ Buncrana Together.