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Céad mile fáilte: More than a sign over a pub door

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

This week the Irish Government announced that it could no longer provide accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees. Those seeking refuge would be left to sleep on the streets. It’s January in Dublin. It’s cold and it’s wet.

Meanwhile, a new wave of Irish Citizens can no longer afford to live in the state and are leaving. This government is failing to meet both its national and international obligations. It is not a either/or choice between the two, there is a legal and moral duty to do both.

Citizens should be able to afford to live in their own nation, and those fleeing poverty and persecution given shelter. Ireland is a wealthy island.

We hope that our children who are forced to move abroad would receive a warmer welcome than those who arrive in Dublin.

We should know better. The population of our nation has not recovered from an Gorta Mór.

An Gorta Mór was a man-made famine in the 1840’s. It was the result of British policy, bigotry, and greed. Food was exported for profit while the poor starved.

Millions died or fled. In New York, they were met with the bigotry of the Nativist movement and official neglect. Nativist and the aptly named “Know Nothings”, attacked churches and enacted Anti-Irish policies. Some Irish survived and prospered relying on the charity of others but many died.

The Black Rock Monument in Montreal marks the mass grave of six thousand who survived the transatlantic trip, only to succumb to disease in holding centers.

Since partition, there have been cycles of emigration. Successive Irish Governments have used emigration as a safety valve for their own failing policies. We are back in the cycle again. The only difference is that it is no longer Boston, New York, and San Francisco but Perth, Sydney, and Vancouver. Emigration is no longer a choice but a necessity for a generation priced out of their own communities by government policy.

The only difference between an emigrant and an immigrant is the points of departure and arrival. We are a wealthy nation. We are able to meet our national and international obligations. We have the resources, the space, and the people to build houses.

We now need governments North and South that will make Ireland a home for those in need whether born here or fleeing prosecution and poverty. We owe that to ourselves and to the world that provided a home for the Irish for centuries.

Céad mile fáilte must be more than a sign over a pub door and Bás in Eirinn more than a wish.

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.

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