Posted by Senator Fidelma Healy Eames in Features.

With over 1000 parishes in Ireland the Catholic Church and other churches must do more.

Independent Galway Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has called for the immediate recall of the Seanad next week to discuss the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and Europe.

The Galway Senator says that it is clear that Ireland must step up and do “everything in our power to help those fleeing death and destruction in Syria”. Healy Eames compared the current crisis in Syria to the Great Irish famine, and the devastation of Germany after World War II, and says that “politics as usual is not good enough” and that “electoral or economic considerations should not override our duty to save dying children and innocent families ”.

Speaking from Galway, Senator Healy Eames said: “The current crisis in Syria is reminiscent of the great famine, when millions had to leave our shores just to survive. They too risked death in coffin ships rather than face certain death at home. It is clear now that the cost of inaction by Ireland and Europe is and will be the deaths of many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people. This cannot stand.

We have a duty that supersedes any economic or electoral considerations. And we should not lie to ourselves as a people and pretend that we lack the capacity to help.

It is my firm belief that we can accommodate numbers up to 10,000, of Syrian children and families fleeing persecution and death.

This is not just a duty for Government. This must be a response from the people. And it is. Already three Galway families have contacted me offering to take families.

Civil Society, and the Catholic and other churches, must come together to make accommodation and care available. There are more than 1000 parishes in Ireland. It would not be unreasonable for parishes to accommodate up to five families.

As somebody who is strongly pro-life, I feel it is the duty of all those who care about the lives of innocent children to step up and save the thousands fleeing certain death and seeking refuge in Europe.

Unfortunately, in this election season, there is an understandable tendency by some to be cautious around the issue of “refugees” or “immigration”. I understand that. This country has been through a very tough period. I believe we have a very definitive responsibility to our own people. They are always our priority. But let me be clear: Our own people are not facing torture and persecution. These Syrian people are, and the right thing to do is to set an example to the world and to help them.

During the Second World War, Syria was a host country to thousands of WW2 victims. Now it is our turn to help them. I say to the Government that an issue like this will define their legacy far more than winning the next election ever would.

In 2003 the Irish people proved that we have the capacity to accommodate a large group of people. Towns and villages across this land still carry signs proudly announcing themselves as “host towns” to various countries from the time of the Special Olympics, which made us all so proud to be Irish. 30,000 volunteers took part in that effort. What could make us prouder now than to come together as a country to save as many of these people as we can? It really is a case of ‘it takes a village to rear a child’.
About two years ago I tabled a Seanad motion on this very issue with Minister Joe Costello, offering to take Syrian children. Unfortunately no action was taken. Now we have an emergency.

I believe that politics is about helping people. I believe it is about making a difference in the world. We are lucky to live in a country that has the opportunity to make such a difference, in a real and lasting way, and in a way that future generations will remember and appreciate. This is an opportunity for Ireland to respond in an exemplary way.
There is no doubt either that the European and global community must do much more to solve the war in Syria. It is going on for far too long and the Syrians have become a forgotten people.

I call therefore for the recall of the Seanad, and if necessary the Dáil, to debate this issue, and to see what it is exactly that we can do. I have written to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad today making this request. I also call on the Bishops, civil society, and other organisations to get involved.

We must help. History will not forgive us if we fail. It’s time to lead, and to take action, and to change the debate in Europe and the world about this historic crisis.