Stuck in middle as Left and Right slug it out on immigration

The issue of immigration is very topical at present, but ADRIENNE ACTON says it’s time the reasonable voices in the middle - like hers - drowned out the squabbling of the Left and Right
Stuck in middle as Left and Right slug it out on immigration

A child flees war-torn Ukraine. We have to strike a middle ground on refugees, says Adrienne Acton

AS the war in Ukraine rages on, and the numbers seeking refugee status and asylum on our shores grows at great speed, the arguments for and against them arriving have taken an ugly turn.

On one side are those who want to keep the gates open, let refugees come in their droves despite their criminal history or the current housing crisis. Keep them coming, they say, until there is but standing room only, our island begins to sink and we start falling into the Atlantic mists.

When I picture these folks, I see them with guitars, wearing hemp and singing kumbaya until some criminal they welcomed takes the guitar and makes off with it.

These people are being labelled as the ‘Far Left’.

On the other side are those that believe Ireland should be for the Irish alone. That we should shun all those in need.

They see nothing wrong with wearing face coverings and scaring the life out of the people in direct provision centres.

When I picture these folks I see pitchforks and lighting reeds. This group is being labelled the ‘Far Right’.

I, like most people, sit somewhere in the middle.

We have watched as the Polish arrived and many of them did the jobs we couldn’t fill. We listened to our children talk excitedly about their new school friend, who hails from some far of land. We watched in Macroom as women in the direct provision centres volunteered in the charity shop and the Tidy towns.

We hear stories of Ukrainian women and children integrating with locals in Youghal, enjoying picnics and art classes together. We know that, when you bring the community along with you, our charity knows no bounds, and our worldwide reputation for kindness is well deserved.

We in the middle tend to work hard, pay rent or a mortgage, and cut back on what we can as the cost of living crisis bangs on our front door.

We wonder what else we can cut back on in order to meet the next mortgage hike, and are grateful for the €600 ESB assistance.

We don’t blame the government for every grievance and we certainly aren’t naive enough to think an alternative government would make that much of a difference.

We can balance the news, as we know some papers or channels will have an agenda on one side or the other.

We worry, however, that too many decisions are being made without consulting us.

We worry when we hear that our child’s education may be suffering because the teacher needs to focus on non-English speaking students. We listen as those in work don’t quality for social housing and are refused a mortgage, while the powers-that-be build more modular homes for the influx of refugees and asylum-seekers.

We worry that our country, one that is currently very wealthy and lies just behind Luxemburg and Singapore and ahead of Qatar and the U.S with a GDP of $131,034. thanks to the tech and science sectors, will go into a downward spiral of increased homelessness, criminal activity, and violence.

We worry the Far Left and Far Right clashes will get worse and this beautiful island of ours will be torn asunder.

We read in the news recently that a rally was held in Cork city to welcome refugees, while a rally in Mallow was held to protest against the diggers moving in to build modular homes for Ukrainians.

We watch as Nato send tanks to push back Vladimir Putin, but worry this will be the straw that breaks that donkey’s pride.

We watch as those in a safe place are advised not to travel to Ireland as we can’t accommodate them, and then have to defend this decision to a UN paymaster committee.

Having asked several people around the city for their views, the over-riding feeling from those who are neither on the Left or the Right expressed the same sentiment as me. They all said ‘enough’.

Whether it was a granny fearing her grandchildren will grow up in a lawless society. A mother who says her daughter can’t buy a house, even though she works full time. She has no issue with anyone coming here, but the numbers shouldn’t be added to any more.

Everyone agreed helping Ukrainians was the right thing to do, but that should be enough. Our contribution and charitable actions were something to be proud of, but we have become a soft touch, Europe’s doormat.

For my part, let me say I don’t like being labelled by members of the Dail as ‘someone who has lived here all their life‘ in order to suit their narrative. I’m Irish, my parents are Irish, my grandparents are Irish and I have countless generation in the graveyard.

I’m knowledgeable and ever conscious of my country’s history and, like all Irish writers, I’m never too far away from a lament about my beautiful island. There’s a 13th century castle ruin on my grandparents’ dairy farmland and I can’t have more than three drinks without breaking out into song, normally something about the old sod.

I’m competitive about my baking and love meeting people from other countries. I believe the ‘land of a thousand welcomes’ is something to be proud of. But, like many in the middle, I am fearful for the future of this isle I love so much.

Those in the middle will never agree with protests at the gates of the direct provision centres, and will never agree that our country should be a free-for-all. But, if we had to be pushed in one direction or the other, I think we’d be leaning a little right of centre.

Put simply, we would give anyone the shirt off our back, but we have only one shirt.

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