Does the Government really have the will to erase the stain of direct provision?  

The plan is commendable, ambitious and doable but without buy-in from everyone in Government all those whose life has been paused in direct provision could be set for another let-down
Does the Government really have the will to erase the stain of direct provision?  

Without drastic improvement from the Department of Housing, the new own-door 'temporary' accommodation planned for asylum seekers could very well end up as Direct Provision Vol 2, featuring the added bonus of your own front door. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Compared to other institutions in Ireland, cynics could say we're lucky direct provision only got a run of two decades.

The age-old Irish problem of putting that which makes us uncomfortable out of sight and far from mind has given us exactly the same result as it did when we locked away the women and children we considered "other" before.

A State which laughably claimed it had been moulded in the shadow of the Catholic Church arguably treated those who had fled the horrors of war, persecution and famine with more contempt than we treat those who have broken the law.

To add insult to injury, the number of deaths in direct provision centres stopped being notified in 2017, and like all those institutionalised by Ireland before them, we'll never know the full story of their lives or deaths.

Over the past 20 years, the hands of the Irish State never seem to be wrung out. There was always more hand-wringing to be done, despite every death, every witness testimony to an Oireachtas committee and every report which documented the abuse, horror and degradation visited on those kept in dilapidated hotels, long past their popularity, but allowed a second chance at a profit while we denied those inside a second chance at life.

Now, the Government, which very recently let down another institutionalised people, is planning to give another group the dignity they deserve and has asked us to believe in them.

The Green Party, for all their expendable red lines on climate, fought hard for this policy and it seems to be one they have won in principle.

The plan set out by Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman and Community Development Minister Joe O'Brien is commendable, ambitious and doable – but only if everyone in Government plays ball.

The lack of statutory underpinning means these plans could go over time, over budget and over the heads of civil servants, who have no skin in the game to end the practice.

Ministers who came before have already said the will to end direct provision was never there in the department and civil servants balked at Dr Catherine Day's report in October 2020, with concerns over housing, social protection and the bogeyman of "the pull factor" floating in the distance.

Housing and accommodation are the key factors in the White Paper and here is where the real obstacle lies.

The housing crisis and direct provision are tied in first place for our current national shame, and it's no wonder, as one is inextricably tied to the other.

Mr O'Gorman said this plan for ending direct provision must be seen in the context of the "real focus" this Government has paid to housing, as if we haven't just heard how officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and the Central Bank, no less, rubbishing the Shared Equity scheme and that every target set down by the Government on housing are on course to be missed due to Covid-19 or lack of radical ambition.

Without drastic improvement from the Department of Housing, the new own-door "temporary" accommodation planned for asylum seekers could very well end up as Direct Provision Vol 2, featuring the added bonus of your own front door.

Set this against a rapidly warming earth, while pointless wars trundle along in the Middle East, will ensure we'll see more displaced people in the future than the numbers we are struggling to cope with now. The task is mammoth and essential.

It is clear money is no object and the funding is in situ for a radical overhaul of the 20-year-old misery-for-profit business, but all the problems with the price of land, price of building and planning will remain.

With the plan set out, it is possible that one of the most modern stains on our nation could finally be rubbed out, but without the buy-in from those who set the practice up in the first place, the Greens and all those whose life has been paused in direct provision could be set for another let-down.

Ending direct provision could be the best thing this Government ever does, with lasting benefits for generations, but it is deeds not words that those stuck in this State-sponsored limbo need most.

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