If anyone still doubts the conclusion reached by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that our system of direct provision in Ireland is ‘a severe
violation of human rights’, all they need do is consider what is happening in Kerry.
The minister for justice apologised yesterday by way of an open-letter advertisement in Kerry newspapers to the people of Caherciveen, for the speed and manner in which the direct provision centre was opened in the town in mid-March.
That he did so by advertisement is highly unusual and raises questions on the use of taypayers’ money to defend what is in this case, a botched series of events presided over by the Department of Justice.
It is not the only question that needs answering. A series of statements made by the minister in radio interviews yesterday were made in contradiction of facts established by this newspaper. It was also notable that having decided not to apologise to the people living in the centre itself in his open letter, Mr Flanagan insisted the radio interview could act as his apology instead.
He said, “I don’t have any problem apologising to the people of the centre”, referring to the broken boiler and heating at the Skellig Star Hotel. It was an odd choice of phrase, coming from an embattled minister on the defensive, instead of someone wanting to apologise and fix the catalogue of errors committed in Caherciveen to-date.
Residents, community members, and local politicians have rejected the minister’s apology.
Today, we reveal that more than half of the staff working there had yet to be garda vetted almost two months after residents had moved into the DP centre, despite this being a mandatory requirement for working in such a facility. Most staff had not completed a mandatory course from Tusla, required of anybody working in a centre with children.
This newspaper reported on Tuesday that in government formation talks, Mr Flanagan had urged caution on seeking to reform the direct provision system for fear of making
Ireland increasingly attractive to economic migrants.
This perhaps gets to the crux of the thinking at the heart of this matter by those in charge. This is an ongoing human rights scandal that cannot be justified. It traps people in limbo, often for years, and there are hundreds who have spent most of their formative years in the system. Indeed, the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection,
Geoffrey Shannon, has called it “institutionalised poverty”.
Direct Provision was originally introduced as an emergency measure in 1999. It has long passed its sell-by date.
It could one day join the Magdalene laundries, and the abuse of children in state and religious institutions as an example of our State’s contempt for the most marginalised and vulnerable. The only way to prevent that is to end this
Instead of defending direct provision, Mr Flanagan and his ministerial colleagues must immediately consider how best to replace it with a fair and humane system that does not shame us all. If they cannot, we must hope that the next government has ministers who can.