Catholic bishops warn against activities of anti-immigrant groups in Irish society

‘Throughout history vulnerable people have had to flee their homes’


The Catholic bishops have warned against the activities of anti-immigrant groups in Ireland, particularly on social media. They expressed “deep concern that some within our society have overtly expressed intolerance towards welcoming migrants and refugees, and especially so on social media.

“In an increasingly individualised and polarised society, the needs of the other are too often seen as threats to our own levels of comfort and abundance.”

They pointed out that last Sunday the Church celebrated World Day of Migrants and Refugees and that, to mark the day, Pope Francis unveiled a sculpture of migrants and refugees in St Peter’s Square in Rome titled Angels Unawares.

It depicts migrant people from different cultural and racial backgrounds, and diverse historic periods. “The sculpture reminds us that throughout history vulnerable people have had to flee their homes and seek hope on farther shores. In Ireland – in our own families – we know of this only too well,” the bishops said in a statement at the end of their autumn meeting in Maynooth.

Speaking on the subject this week to The Irish Times Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin said that where hostility to migrants in Ireland was concerned “this tendency to the extremes is now a global phenomenon. We’ve seen it in many countries and Ireland is not immune to it, our communities are not immune from it, our church is not immune from it.”

He warned that “sometimes we give way too easily to the extremes and people in the middle, who have good strong voices, go silent. I would certainly be encouraging people to speak up for the middle ground. The extremes are always there.”

He added, “We’ve seen in the North, for example, how everything is pushed to the extremes and I would be concerned about giving way to these extremes who also thrive on fake news, on fake stories, putting out fake examples and who resent anyone who tries to take a middle ground approach. I don’t think it’s a peculiarly Irish phenomenon but we are not immune.”

On direct provision in Ireland he said, “The Irish bishops have consistently called out the direct provision system. If you go back over the last number of years, we return to it several times a year. There is no doubt this particular incident in Oughterard shows us the failure of the current approach.”

He noted, “There have been previous incidents, where the desire to welcome is one thing – and I think a lot of people do want to welcome. There are some in Ireland who simply don’t want any stranger among them, that’s a reality. But even those people can often be brought round to accepting their humanitarian responsibility provided that we work hard on the ground to alleviate their fears,” he said.

Where dealing with migrants and refugees was concerned, he said, “We need to think small, we need to think inter-agency where the churches, the communities, the social services, the educational services and all of us can work together,” he said.

“There are enough alarm bells ringing today to suggest that we need to take a fresh look at this, one which will welcome, promote, protect and integrate” the stranger into communities, he said.