The introduction by the US of new immigration controls against Muslims on Holocaust Memorial weekend “tells me we obviously haven’t remembered enough”, former president Mary McAleese has said.
“We gather here each year to remember the Holocaust, not just for the sake of remembering but for the sake of reminding people how vulnerable human beings are to having our human dignity and our human rights withdrawn, abrogated and abused at any time,” she said.
Mrs McAleese was speaking in Dublin's Mansion House on Sunday night at the annual Holocaust Memorial Day service in which she took part. Others in attendance included the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Rabbi Dr Zalman Lent, papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown and Imam Shaykh Umar al-Qadri.
Also there were Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond,Tomi Reichental and Jan Kaminski, as well as relatives of survivors.
Mrs McAleese said told The Irish Times it was a time for people of goodwill "who know the history of what happens when you issue those blanket bans and how dehumanising it is, it's for us to say 'no, I'm sorry, this is not something that we can possibly tolerate'. That's why we gather here tonight in the Mansion House. That's what this is about," she said.
On the new US president Donald Trump, she said: "I don't think I like anything I hear this man say. When I hear people say he is the leader of the free world I have to say as a woman, and as a woman who lives in the free world, he's not my leader."
It was “fair to say, virtually every European leader and most people whom I would admire and whose politics I would admire are sorely heartbroken by these events,” she added.
In the keynote address, Mr Donohoe spoke of how in the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s, "our economic policy was one of protectionism, self-sufficiency. We turned inward. We isolated ourselves within the boundaries of the 26 counties and as the second World War, began Ireland accepted only a small number of Jewish refugees and denied thousands of others." It was "part of or history which we must acknowledge and learn from and, more importantly, not repeat".
In Europe today, "narratives of fear are once more being invoked. This fear points to one group more than others , towards immigrants , a rhetoric of us versus them is growing, " he said. "We must embrace what the European Union was set up to do, avoid conflict, ensure freedom to work together for a safer Europe. The heart of Europe is democracy and this must be protected for everyone. We must hold the centre."