Fintan O’Toole: Do Fine Gael MEPs ever think about their own recent ancestors?

Migrant workers, like our ancestors, are heroes and heroines of the global economy

Nguyen Thi Phong and Pham Van Thin, mother and father of Pham Thi Tra My, who is believed to be among the 39 people found dead in a container truck in southeastern England, in their home in Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. Photograph: EPA/STR

Nguyen Thi Phong and Pham Van Thin, mother and father of Pham Thi Tra My, who is believed to be among the 39 people found dead in a container truck in southeastern England, in their home in Can Loc district, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam. Photograph: EPA/STR

While 39 people were dying in a trailer in Essex, the fruit was rotting on the trees in Kent. Sixteen million apples have been left as a windfall for the foxes and the worms. Autumn in England may be John Keats’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but the blueberries and the strawberries and the raspberries are being left for the birds.

The mercenary army of migrant labourers from eastern Europe that English farmers rely on has not taken the field this year, deterred by the fall in the value of sterling and the uncertainties of Brexit. Only when they are not there do such people matter. Only when they die on land, near to us, (drowning in the sea does not count) do they have names, like Pham Thi Tra My, who texted her mother in rural north Vietnam: “I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.”

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.