Government to convey ‘grave concern’ to US ambassador about migrant separation

‘We know from dark chapters in our own history the consequences of separating children from their parents’

The Taoiseach said ‘the eyes of the world are on the US and absolutely nobody can defend the scenes of children being forcibly separated from their parents’. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

The Taoiseach said ‘the eyes of the world are on the US and absolutely nobody can defend the scenes of children being forcibly separated from their parents’. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

The Government will convey its “grave concern” to the acting US ambassador about the forcible separation of children and parents in the US clampdown on immigration, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

The House agreed to debate and agree a cross-party motion condemning the US action in separating parents and children caught illegally entering the US on its southern border, which has provoked international condemnation.

Leo Varadkar said it seemed that America “is more and more departing from its own values” as he quoted words written on the US Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

The Taoiseach said “the eyes of the world are on the US and absolutely nobody can defend the scenes of children being forcibly separated from their parents”.

Mr Varadkar, who said he loved America, added: “We know from dark chapters in our own history the consequences of separating children from their parents and how that lasted them for their entire lives and damaged them for their entire lives.”

He said: “We will absolutely convey our grave concern to the acting US ambassador and that will be done as soon as possible.”

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, who raised the issue, called for a debate and for people to join the protest on Tuesday evening outside the US embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “mind-boggling” that such forcible separation, and the holding of children in what were effectively cages, could be practised by any civilised country.

It was an action that is “abhorred by all of us”.

She paid tribute to Tánaiste Simon Coveney for the criticism of the US action and said it was appropriate he had tweeted his statement, in reference to US president Donald Trump’s preference for tweeting his thoughts.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the Dáil had to take a stand against this “shocking” practice of dividing and separating children and toddlers from their parents.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the practice is “absolutely unacceptable and it should be communicated government to government and parliament to parliament”, how “reprehensible we find this degradation of human rights”.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall, called for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to call in the US ambassador to convey the strength of feeling of the House about American policy.