Sanctuary in the Oireachtas
Date: 23 May 2017
From Br Kevin Mascarenhas of ISU:
Places of Sanctuary Ireland groups and members from Dublin, Waterford, Portlaoise, Newbridge, Drogheda and Ballaghaderreen, most of them graduates from the Sanctuary in Politics courses, gathered in Dublin's Leinster House recently to make history on the first ever Sanctuary in the Oireachtas.
Our hosts were Minister David Stanton, Minister of Justice with special responsibility for Equality, Integration and Immigration, and the leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan TD.
The Dublin group had worked together to write a class Manifesto around 5 broad themes – Safe Passage for refugees, access to English language classes, access to 3rd level education, the right to family reunification and the right to work. Speakers from Dublin and Waterford prepared speeches on these themes which they presented to Minister Stanton and then before Eamon Ryan and several invited TDs, senators and officials. The politicians and decision makers listened carefully, took notes, and responded, and a dialogue and platform for continuing the conversation was created.
It was a wonderful time for our students to feel empowered and to know that all the hard work they put in on the course was bearing fruit. Many of them had written to their own TDs to invite them to the event, and as politicians came into the AV room – TDs and senators from Waterford, Co Roscommon, Dublin and elsewhere – there was an opportunity to meet and hear from their own constituents. The message that came over again and again was, we love Ireland, we are grateful for the welcome, we want to contribute – please open the doors for us to be able to do that! The organisers stood back and listened to people from over 10 different countries and cultural backgrounds represented us all and a much wider welcoming movement in the heart of the Irish government. Refugees who have fled oppressive regimes were amazed at the opportunity to sit and engage with the top people. We were delighted to have people from other organisations, the Justice Department and elsewhere come along just watch, listen and support.
After the events, everyone went to Trinity College where our Sanctuary friends in Irish school of Ecumenics were ready with a shared lunch for everyone. This was an opportunity for people from the different groups to get to know each other and build new friendships. The overwhelming feeling was we need to build on the momentum of what has happened today. Decision makers and sanctuary supports in Leinster House want to hear form us, and they take our voices seriously. It is up to us to keep that dialogue going.