The Labour leader confirmed the move is being considered as part of EU-wide measures to cope with up the surge of people fleeing atrocities in their countries as she urged “rich Arab nations” to do their part to house those involved.
Speaking at the weekend, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy — both Fine Gael TDs — played down the prospect of Ireland taking in more than the 600 people over two years which was agreed with the EU, saying this is “almost double” what was initially suggested.
However, responding to comments from Equality Minister and Labour TD Aodhan Ó Ríordáin that history “will be very unkind to Ireland” if we do not take action, Ms Burton said extra people may be taken in.
“If we are asked to look at perhaps taking further people I think the Government — both parties in government — will look at that in the same way that we have addressed each of the requests that have been made of us so far. I don’t think it’s a question of whether anybody’s in favour or not. There is a humanitarian crisis on a very, very large scale. If we are asked to take further people both parties in Government will look at that in the same way as we have addressed the situation so far,” she said.
Ms Burton said while nothing has been agreed, during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s Ireland initially took in 500 people from the war-torn nation but the Bosnian community in Ireland is now up to 5,000 due to “family reunification”.
The Tánaiste said this may be repeated, and could be an option should Ireland be asked during an EU meeting in a fortnight’s time to increase the 600-person cap.
Ms Burton said Ireland would “continue to step up to the plate”, saying Ireland is already at the forefront of rescue missions in the Mediterranean and has spent “very significantly” on development aid despite our own economic crash. Defence Minister Simon Coveney is expected to ask Cabinet today to continue this humanitarian effort.
However, saying “one country on its own, however well-meaning, is not actually going to be able to deliver the action that is required”, the Tánaiste said any moves must be co-ordinated at an EU-wide level and should include the potential participation of “rich Arab states” which could alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
The issue is expected to be discussed when Taoiseach Enda Kenny meets French president Francois Hollande today.
On Thursday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said Ireland, Denmark, and Britain could take more migrants and called for a quota system based on a nation’s wealth amid rising migrant numbers in her country.