Friday, May 20, 2005

There’s been an awful lot of comment in the media on remarks made in the Dail last Wednesday (18/05/05) by Conor Lenihan Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development. Minister Lenihan told TD Joe Higgins in a Dail debate that he should “Stick with the kebabs”. This comment is taken to be a reference to the work that Joe Higgins is undertaking on behalf of Turkish workers in the GAMA construction group.

The Minister later made a partial apology. Coming from a Minister who’s portfolio includes Overseas Development as well as Human Rights such a statement can at best be said to be puerile at worst a resigning issue for the Minister. I don’t think they done the cause of race relations much favors to be honest.

But I feel that in regard to attacks on race relations and refugees they missed the real story. On the same day the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell made comments to the effect that unfortunately under the Geneva Convention he was obliged to provide due process to people arriving in this country, claiming asylum. He also made remarks to cock and bull stories which the authorities are told by people. Also the Irish people were invoked in his anti-immigrant invective.

I find it very sinister that a Minister for Justice in the EU can treat such an important agreement as the Geneva Convention with outward unabashed distain and contempt.

Let us have a debate on immigration, on asylum seekers, on our international obligations and the importance of upholding international agreements which guarantee human rights.

Conor Lenihan's remarks were stupid, foolish and perhaps insightful. Michael McDowell's comments were altogether on another level.

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