A YOUNG Dublin man who almost considers himself a Corkonian is gearing up to run the Cork City Marathon in aid of MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland).
Dylan O’Toole, 26, a graduate in architecture from DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology), spends as much of his time as he can in Fairhill where his maternal grandparents, Mick and Kate Carroll live.
He was planning on running the Cork City Marathon on September 6, because he spends a lot of his time in Cork. Last Friday, Cork City Marathon announced the race won’t go ahead now on September 6, as rescheduled, but that instead they are hosting a virtual race series.
Dylan said he will now take part in that race series instead.
“Going back to my childhood, Cork holds a special place in my heart,” says Dylan.
“When me and my sisters were younger, we always said we were from Cork. I’ve always preferred Cork city to Dublin. If I need to do shopping when I’m in Cork, I’ve never found it lacking and there’s less repetition of the same businesses.”
Dylan graduated last year and hasn’t yet really started looking for a job.
“Before Christmas, I spent three months doing a lot of rock climbing in the Middle East. It’s a part of the world I’ve always been interested in. Rock climbing is a great experience. It’s a good way into the people and culture of a place.”
To keep fit, Dylan runs and exercises in a gym.
“Running and working out in the gym is for me a means of pursuing other sports. I played rugby all the way through school. The running and gym work always feels like a bit of a chore. But it allows me to play rugby and go rock climbing.
“Being in lockdown, I’ve got into running as an end in itself and not just a means to allow me do something else. I would never have thought that running was for me.”
Dylan feels strongly about the way asylum seekers living in direct provision are treated in this country.
“I’ve always looked at direct provision in a state of disbelief. It’s something I’ve always struggled to wrap my head around. I think asylum seekers, in direct provision, are one of the most marginalised members of society. The infringement on their dignity and freedom is mind-blowing. I listen to Blindboy’s podcast. A while back, I heard him say that direct provision centres are going to be the next Magdalene laundries. That might sound like a catchy sound-bite but I’d struggle to describe it differently myself.”
While Dylan isn’t “by any means an expert on direct provision, my girlfriend knows a lot more about it as her brother does a of work with people in direct provision, helping them gain asylum seeker status.”
MASI was formed after protests in the direct provision centres in 2014. The ultimate goal of MASI is to end direct provision.
“In the meantime, it’s about gaining dignity, independence and freedom. Direct provision isn’t going to end any time soon. MASI is a movement of solidarity by people in that system,” said Dylan.
There is a lot of money being made by people who own the premises that have been turned into direct provision centres.
“I think the very fact that the vast majority of direct provision centres are run on a for-profit basis, tells you a lot of what you need to know about them.”
As Dylan points out, the lay-out of direct provision centres and their facilities are not conducive to social distancing.
Asked what he would replace direct provision centres with, Dylan says: “I’m by no means suggesting an easy fix. I imagine it would be a process. I don’t think you could just close every direct provision centre in the country tomorrow because obviously finding accommodation for people would be hard. But just simple things, like work. The right to work for people in direct provision only came in very recently.”
Dylan adds that it’s very difficult for people in direct provision to access third level education.
“Anything beyond second level education has obstacles. It’s a matter of going through things like this at a much more rapid pace so that asylum seekers could feel more welcome here.”
Is Irish society racist?
“I’d certainly like to think not, but it’s very hard to say. But when you see people from the most marginalised places having to flee war torn countries and the reaction of the government to people like this, it almost seems like the State is marginalising these people. I feel it almost gives Irish people the sense they’re justified in what they’re doing (with objections to new direct provision centres being opened). The fear of outsiders living in their communities trickles down from the top.”
Now that we’re in recession due to Covid-19, what are the implications for asylum seekers?
“I imagine they’re going to be even lower down the pecking order. People on Facebook are saying things like ‘look after our own first’. That’s just lunacy. But I’m under no illusions that it’s a very tough situation. However, people coming into Ireland as asylum seekers are fleeing some of the worst conditions on the planet. To be treated the way they are in a lot of a cases is mind-blowing in a country that’s supposedly famous for its welcome.”
Dylan O’Toole has set up a Go Fund Me Page in aid of MASI if anyone wants to sponsor him in his participation in the Cork City Marathon
MORE ABOUT THE VIRTUAL MARATHON
Registered participants of the Cork City Marathon 2020 are encouraged to walk, jog, or run one of the five distance categories available through The Cork City Marathon virtual race website. Participants can achieve their selected distance across a number of days or weeks within the race time period (safely and always following Government advice on Social Distancing). Their final accumulative race times can be submitted via an easy-to-use e-form which is available on the Cork City Marathon website. Find out at www.corkcitymarathon.ie or follow the Cork City Marathon on Facebook and Instagram @corkcitymarathon or on Twitter @TheCorkMarathon