Equality... Cllr Alan Lawes.

Cllr calling for united front against racism

An appeal for councillors to put up a united front against racism has been made by Cllr Alan Lawes.

"Racism will raise is ugly head and we should be prepared to fight it with a united front," he told last week's meeting of Navan Municipal Council.

He pointed out that he had in the past said that everybody must be treated equally or it could give rise to resentment.

"I'm of the opinion that whoever turns up on our streets, whether they are Ukrainian, Syrian or whatever, they must all be treated the same," he said.

He spoke of the recent protests against those seeking international protection that had taken place around the country, which were fuelled by those "whipping up a frenzy of fear."

"A group of students from France arrived in Johnstown recently.

"They were aged 14 or 15 and were on a student change. There were posts all over Facebook saying a bus load of male immigrants of military age had arrived in the middle of the night. It was just whipping up fear."

Tinu Achioya, Programme Manager at the Cultúr Migrants Centre in Navan said recent protests had been led by far right groups who operated at the fringes of society and were not representative of the attitude of the people of Navan and Meath.

"People have been very welcoming to refugees and want to provide them with safety instead of adding to the trauma they have experienced.

"We understand the frustration at the economic situation, but this frustration should not be targeted at the vulnerable.

"We should work together as a community to address issues such as homelessness.

"Public bodies, migrants and the wider community should be working together," she said.

Cllr Lawes has recently been trolled on social media for his defence of migrants and refugees coming into this country.

"We need to stand up ad unite against racism, but we also need to ensure that people are treated equally.

"I am very proud of the way we have treated Ukrainian refugees, but we also need to be proud of the way we treat our homeless people."

He pointed out that racists try to blame immigrants on the homeless problem and the crisis in the health service.

"This isn't the fault of immigrants. The reason the health service is in crisis is that the government decided to go for a two tier system with private medicine.

"Homelessness isn't caused by immigration, it is the result of a private property agenda," he said.

"Unfortunately these problems are being used by those with a racist agenda and we need to ensure people are treated equally to combat this.

"If it wasn't for immigrants, the Celtic Tiger might never have happened as we relied on them to fill so many jobs."

Recalling a recent fire in which his wife was injured he pointed out it was an Asian doctor and Filipino and Nigerian nurses and carers that helped with her recovery.

Cllr Lawes said that the reason that many migrants coming to Ireland were young men was because it is traditionally young people that go abroad to seek a better life and pointed out that for many it is a very arduous and dangerous journey - UN figures show that 30,000 were drowned or went missing at sea in 2021 alone.

"Our own young people are immigrants in other countries - we call our Irish in the US who are illegal 'the undocumented'".