Direct provision a denial of family life, say bishops
There’s a tolerance of it and it’s not a tolerable situation, John McAreavey says
Bishop John McAreavey. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Catholic bishops launched a stinging attack on the direct provision system for asylum seekers at a press conference in Maynooth yesterday.
One bishop asked where the “massive public outcry” on the issue was. It was as if there was “a tolerance of it and it’s not a tolerable situation”, he said.
Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin contrasted previous Irish attitudes to lengthy detention with what seems tolerable today. He was elected president of the Irish Episcopal Conference at its autumn meeting which concluded yesterday evening.
Many asylum seekers were “young children, families maybe in one room,” he said. The bishops would like to see, “as a matter of urgency and priority . . . what can be done to ensure that a stay in these places is kept to a minimum of weeks and certainly months, but not years,” he said.
Bishop John McAreavey, chair of the church’s Council for Justice and Peace, said: “We had a mother who addressed us and told us, eventually in tears, about the impact of the arrangements where she is living on herself and on her son.”
Children in Ireland are being denied the right to family life, he said. “If a mother cannot cook for her child. If a mother cannot have food in her room or where she can access it in order to meet the needs of her child when it wakes up thirsty or hungry . . . this is absolutely basic,” he said.
As bishops, “we’re not taking the high moral view on the care of children. We have our own sins to live with.
“But Irish society today can do better in the care of the most vulnerable, and it’s a serious issue . . . for us not to address that,” he said.
He said that despite coverage in newspapers and on radio programmes he was “not hearing yet a massive outcry from Irish public representatives” about the situation.
“There’s a tolerance of it and it’s not a tolerable situation,” he said.