‘Them and Us’ approach to citizenship betrays Irish values

(25 May 2016)


25th May

‘Them and Us’ approach to citizenship betrays Irish values

“Migrants, refugees and homeless people must be welcomed and valued if we are serious about an Equal Ireland”

Contribution by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy

‘The People’s Conversation: Citizenship 2016’ at The Wheel Annual Conference, Croke Park

A ‘Them and Us’ approach to citizenship excluding migrants, refugees or homeless people is a betrayal of the values set out by the men and women who fought for Irish independence 100-years ago, according to Social Justice Campaigner, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy.

The founder of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Focus Ireland is warning that migrants and people who are homeless must not be viewed as ‘the other person’.

Sr Stan made her remarks during a contribution to ‘The People’s Conversation: Citizenship 2016’ at the Wheels Annual Conference in Croke Park.

During her contribution Sr Stan said:

“We are rightfully proud about our hard won right to citizenship of a free and independent republic – but it is also timely during this commemorative season to reflect on that right in a wider way.

Citizenship must not be – and was never intended to be – a way of distinguishing between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – whether they are men, women and children fleeing war, people looking for a better future or those who suddenly find themselves without that most basic of rights a place to call home.

If we want to truly reflect Irish values then citizenship must be a force for inclusion, empowerment and social well-being. It is a sad reality that this is simply not happening.

Despite recent progressive steps in the process of becoming a citizen it is also true that people and families of a migrant background who have established their lives here still face barriers.

For many the cost of declaring their support for Ireland comes at too high a price, at over €1,000 per person it is in fact one of the most expensive in the world – and imagine the difficulty for an entire family wanting to make this commitment to the future of our country.

But it is not just those who come to make a new home in our country who feel excluded.

Last night over 1,000 families (1,037) spent the night living in emergency homeless accommodation across this country, it is a figure which includes over 2,000 children (2,121).

What does citizenship mean for these families?

They are being treated as less than citizens.

No-one would argue against the fact that this is a national scandal. Yet attempts to find homes for those who have none are often met with local rejection and resistance.

The local organisations which put up these campaigns of resistance are ‘civic society’; they are voluntary and community organisations and no doubt consider their activities to be ‘active citizenship’.

We saw this in its most vivid form after the Carrickmines fire tragedy, but that experience is not unique. We also heard such resistance in response to provide modular homes and when the housing association Tuath announced plans to acquire 117 desperately needed family homes in north Dublin.

Our conversation today is timely – and we must reflect on the vision the heroes of the past had for our country as well as our own hopes for its future.

Let’s recognise that we are all part of the same family. The human race.

It is only then that we can all stand together – as true citizens of an equal society and inclusive nation.




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