News archive 2004

Most Rev Dr Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland criticises ‘scandal’ of Irish Prisoners abroad and pledges continuing efforts on behalf of Irish Community in Britain

PRESS RELEASE

1 FEBRUARY 2004

MOST REV DR SEAN BRADY, ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH AND PRIMATE OF ALL IRELAND CRITICISES ‘SCANDAL’ OF IRISH PRISONERS ABROAD AND PLEDGES CONTINUING SUPPORT ON BEHALF OF IRISH COMMUNITY IN BRITAIN

Most Reverend Dr. Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland
criticises “scandal” of Irish Prisoners abroad and pledges continuing efforts on behalf
of the Irish Community in Britain, Warns Against “Fortress Europe” and welcomes meeting
between Dr. Ian Paisley and An Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, TD

Speaking at the Irish Association Social Club’s Annual Dinner in the Jarvis Hotel,
Piccadilly, Manchester, on Saturday, 31st January, 2004, Dr. Seán Brady, Archbishop
of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, expressed concern at the delays involved in
repatriating Irish prisoners to serve their terms closer to their families. Dr.
Brady also used the occasion to continue to speak out on behalf of those members
of the Irish community who have fallen on hard times and whose plight was highlighted
in a recent R.T.É. Prime Time programme.

Under the European Convention on the Treaty of Sentenced Persons Act (1984) foreign
nationals, in prison, are entitled to apply for repatriation to the country of their
birth to serve their sentences closer to their families. Dr. Brady pointed out that
the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Prisoners Overseas, which has offices in Maynooth
and London, has been assisting with the repatriation of Irish nationals for many
years and has long been concerned about the inordinate delay in the processing of
applications.

“According to records, it takes between 2½ to 3 years to process a straight forward
UK to Republic of Ireland application. This is entirely unsatisfactory. We are
dealing with two legal jurisdictions which share a common language. This time
scale compares unfavourably with that for British Nationals where the process of
repatriation from all countries (including non-English speaking countries), takes
between 9 to 12 months to complete. It is little short of a scandal that Irish
families should find themselves in this situation”. Dr. Brady emphasised.

Dr Brady said that “such a situation is an example of the need that exists for
an agency for the Irish Abroad that will co-ordinate the necessary Departments
and Agencies to ensure that the emigrant in prison does not suffer unnecessarily.
It is obvious that if society maintains the link between a prisoner and his/her
family’s support and influence then it greatly reduces the risk of re-offence
and also reduces the likelihood of homelessness and further crime.”

The Archbishop also reminded his audience that the Irish Bishops’ Conference
welcomed the Report given to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen TD,
entitled ‘Ireland and the Irish Abroad’ and applauded Minister Cowen for his
commitment and enthusiasm to this project. Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry, who
is Chairman of the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigration recently called on
the Minister to implement these findings and Dr Brady reiterated that the Bishops’
Conference in Ireland fully supports Bishop Hegarty’s call to Government as a
matter of priority to establish an “Agency for the Irish Abroad” as recommended
by the Task Force set up to coordinate services at home and abroad for our Diaspora.

“The document is strong in its support for a holistic approach to the care and
nurturing not just of the Irish abroad but of Ireland abroad. The efforts of
the Irish abroad to promote their culture should be supported and guided as
we journey into a Europe where cultural and ethnic identity are essential to
a truly balanced and integrated Europe” he said.

Finally, Dr. Brady called on the Irish Government to exploit the potential of
the EU Presidency to leave an indelibly enlightened mark on EU asylum policy.
“Over the centuries, we have learned a great deal as an emigrant people. The
task now is to remember that experience. Of course we should acknowledge the
pain and the sorrow but without forgetting the opportunities and blessing which
this experience contains. We should reflect on the lessons that reside within
our collective emigrant experience and learn from them. Ireland, as current
holder of the EU Presidency, should make reference to the story of our people
in contributing to the debate about the appropriate policies and legislation
that the EU needs to put in place vis-à-vis the movement of peoples. In its
term of Presidency of the European Union, Ireland has a duty to lead public
opinion and debate on this emotive issue and not fall victim to scaremongering
and myths. The objective of our Presidency should be to provide the most
enlightened legislation and to avoid the creation of a ‘fortress Europe’”
mentality. Dr. Brady went on to urge the Irish Government “to use its
Presidency of the EU to create a humanitarian Europe-wide policy on
mmigration.”

Speaking on Northern Ireland, Dr. Brady said he expected the political pace
to quicken when the formal review of the implementation of the Good Friday
Agreement commences on Tuesday next, in Belfast, under the co-chairmanship
of the British and Irish Governments. He wished all the parties well in
their deliberations and stated that last Thursday evening’s cordial and
constructive face to face meeting between Dr. Ian Paisley and the Taoiseach,
Mr. Bertie Ahern, and their respective delegations at the Irish Embassy in
London, augurs well for the upcoming Review. He said he hoped that the
Review will take account of all the parties’ viewpoints and difficulties
and will see an end to all forms of paramilitarism and will, in turn,
accommodate the re-establishment of a truly inclusive and robust Northern
Ireland Executive that is both just and stable and committed to peace
building and the development of good relations between all of the people
of these islands, irrespective of political persuasion, creed, class or
colour.

Ends
1st February 2004

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The full text of the Archbishop’s address follows:

ADDRESS GIVEN BY MOST REVEREND DR. SEÁN BRADY,
ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH AND PRIMATE OF ALL-IRELAND
TO THE IRISH ASSOCIATION SOCIAL CLUB,
SATURDAY, 31ST OCTOBER 2004,
IN THE JARVIS PICCADILLY HOTEL, MANCHESTER

Your Excellency, Ambassador Ó Ceallaigh, distinguished guests and friends of the
Irish Association Social Club in Manchester, I am particularly pleased to be able
to celebrate with you tonight on this the occasion of your Association’s 48th Annual
Dinner. Thank you for your warm reception and generous words of welcome.

When any of our emigrant communities meet, it is an opportunity for us to remember
those who have journeyed ahead of us. In the mid nineteen fifties, very large numbers
of young Irish men and women emigrated from Ireland to England. Very few of them
had either work or lodgings awaiting them. The Irish community, which had settled
in Manchester in tougher times in the nineteen thirties, was very concerned about
the welfare of these young Irish immigrants. They wanted to help them avoid some
of the pitfalls, which they themselves had encountered.

It takes enormous courage to leave home and loved ones and begin an adventure in
a foreign land, filled with uncertainty, risk and hardship. Today, when global
communications can inform one part of the world about what is happening in another
in a matter of seconds, it is relatively easy to know what to expect in the country
to which one intends to emigrate. In the fifties, such knowledge was not available.
The support, therefore, that the settled Irish community gave to the newcomers was
absolutely necessary and extremely valuable and helpful.

I congratulate you on your work in this regard down through the years. Long may
you continue to watch for and reach out to the stranger among you.

Manchester today is a wonderful city with many Irish connections. For many in
Ireland, Manchester is “Manchester United” and the team’s popularity is truly
astounding. Their supporters cross all divides in Ireland – North and South.
This is largely due to the many Irish born heroes that played, and still play,
at Old Trafford. According to the Manchester United Supporters website, seven
out of every ten young people in Ireland support ‘The Red Devils’. One has only
to think of names like: Kevin Moran, Denis Irwin, Johnny Giles Roy Keane and
John O’Shea – to name but a few – to see why this is so.

Manchester also hosts the largest Irish Music Festival in the U.K. I am not
surprised that Manchester calls itself the ‘Rock and Goal’ capital of the world!!

Of course there are many famous Irish names associated with football and music.
We have every reason to be proud of them. However, they should not distract from
the tens of thousands of Irish who also influence the heart and soul of life in
this city today. There are many unsung heroes who make gallant efforts to improve
the quality of life of this city by their involvement in parish organisations,
clubs and societies, and many other of this city’s sporting and cultural bodies.
Long may you continue to enrich the associations and societies you so generously
serve.

Many second generation Irish are happily integrated into the life of Manchester
and Britain generally. Many of you Irish born parents are proud as you look at
how your children have achieved so much. It happened because you took the risk
of making your home here. Many of you, as migrants, were motivated not by your
own interest solely but you also thought of the opportunities that this land
could offer to your children.

As the Irish have enriched Manchester, over the past two centuries, the Irish
community here have also been a source of enrichment for the mother country. On
a basic level, it was money sent back from the Irish in Britain which kept many
an Irish farm and family afloat during harsher times back home. More recently,
many Irish have returned from cities such as Manchester with new skills and
experiences gained here which they, in turn, have used to reinvigorate Ireland.
Indeed the returning Irish are some of the unsung heroes of Ireland’s recent
economic boom.

Since 1957, the Irish Bishops have endeavoured to serve the needs of emigrants.
Over the years, we have tried, to the best of our ability, to serve you and where
possible send Migrant Chaplains who are dedicated to your care. Sadly, with a
shortage of priests back home, we will have to carefully examine how we can
sustain this into the future.

Here, I would like to pay tribute not just to our Migrant Chaplains but to the
many Irish born who came here and ministered to your needs in many and varied
ways. I would like also to pay tribute to the many amongst the English clergy
who understand the distinct cultural needs of the Irish as you practice your
faith in this land. Their understanding is very important.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference recently welcomed the findings of the Report
entitled, ‘Ireland and the Irish Abroad’, given to the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen TD. I ask the Irish Ambassador to pass on our
appreciation to Minister Cowen for his enthusiasm for and commitment to
this project. Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry, who is Chairman of the Irish
Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants, a few weeks ago, called on the Minister
to implement the Report’s recommendations.

This was in light of an R.T.É Irish television programme (Prime Time). That
programme highlighted the plight of a number of Irish people who have fallen
on hard times. What makes their predicament so heartfelt is that they gave
so much to our country in leaner days. In many cases they left Ireland out
of absolute necessity. When they went abroad, they continued to remember
their families and friends at home and regularly sent money back to their
loved ones. The ‘Prime Time’ television programme revealed their sad
circumstances and highlighted the urgent need for the implementation of the
nineteen recommendations contained within the ‘Ireland and Irish Abroad’
Report.

The Bishops’ Conference in Ireland fully supports Bishop Hegarty’s call to
Government as a matter of priority to establish an “Agency for the Irish
abroad” as recommended by the Task Force set up to co-ordinate services at
home and abroad for our Diaspora.

The Task Force report is strong in its support for a holistic approach to
the care and nurturing not just of the Irish abroad but of Ireland abroad.
The efforts of the Irish abroad to promote their culture should be supported
and guided as we journey into a Europe where cultural and ethnic identity
are essential to a truly balanced and integrated Europe.

With this in mind, some Irish dioceses, this year, are participating in a
Saint Patrick’s Day initiative entitled Supporting Irish Abroad .The aim
of this initiative is to remember the Irish abroad in a constructive way.
To create awareness is important but more is needed. We promise to use
whatever resources we can to continue to campaign on your behalf.

In 1985 the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants identified and highlighted
the needs of Irish prisoners and set up the Irish Commission for Prisoners
Overseas (ICPO). This body is entrusted with the care of prisoners and their
families. There is one major and long-standing difficulty in this area that
causes us particular concern. Under the European Convention on the Treaty
of Sentenced Persons Act (1984) foreign nationals, in prison, are entitled
to apply for repatriation to the country of their birth to serve their
sentences closer to their families. The Irish Bishops’ Commission for
Prisoners Overseas, which has offices in Maynooth and London has been
assisting with the repatriation of Irish nationals from prisons in the
UK for many years. It has long been concerned about the inordinate delay
in the processing of such applications.

According to records, it takes between 2½ to 3 years to process a straight
forward UK to Republic of Ireland application. This is entirely unsatisfactory.
We are dealing with two legal jurisdictions which share a common language.
This time scale compares unfavourably with that for British Nationals where
the process of repatriation from all countries (including non-English speaking
countries), takes between 9 to 12 months to complete. It is little short of
a scandal that Irish families should find themselves in this situation. This
is an example of the need that exists for an Agency for the Irish Abroad that
will co-ordinate the necessary Departments and Agencies to ensure that the
emigrant in prison does not suffer unnecessarily. In this “International
Year of the Family”, our governments should make every effort to reduce the
burdens on prisoners’ families. It is obvious that if society facilitates
close links between a prisoner and his or her family’s support and influence,
then it greatly reduces the risk of re-offence and also reduces the likelihood
of homelessness after release from prison.

Movement of peoples on a global scale is a reality today. We take for granted,
for the most part, that capital, goods and information, but not people, move
freely and quickly across borders. In today’s world all categories of migrants
are experiencing increasingly restrictive policies and procedures.

Over the centuries, we have learned a great deal as an emigrant people. The
task now is to remember that experience. Of course we should acknowledge the
pain and the sorrow but without forgetting the opportunities and blessing which
this experience contains. We should reflect on the lessons that reside within
our collective emigrant experience and learn from them. Ireland, as current
holder of the EU Presidency, should make reference to the story of our people
in contributing to the debate about the appropriate policies and legislation
that the EU needs to put in place vis-à-vis the movement of peoples. In its
term of Presidency of the European Union, Ireland has a duty to lead public
opinion and debate on this emotive issue and not fall victim to scaremongering
and myths. The objective of our Presidency should be to provide the most
enlightened legislation and to avoid the creation of a ‘fortress Europe’
mentality.

There are legitimate measures which countries must take to control borders, and
the movement of people. However, there is a great danger in the post Sept 11th
world that an ever-increasing range of security measures, some of which may
breach human rights, become acceptable and, in addition, fuel ungrounded fears.

Research shows how much the EU is, and will increasingly become, dependent on
migrant labour. The EU has a decreasing and ageing population. Even where
there is unemployment there will always be the 3 “d”s – difficult, dirty and
dangerous work, which will largely be carried out by immigrants.

As the Irish once enriched Manchester, so can new global immigrants enrich
Europe. To quote remarks made earlier this week by the Secretary General of
the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan: a closed Europe will be “a meaner, poorer,
weaker, older” one. An open one will be “fairer, richer, stronger, younger –
provided Europe manages immigration well”. In making these points, he argued
that immigrants are “part of the solution, not part of the problem”. They
must not be made a scapegoat for “a vast array of social ills” as they adjust
to their new societies.

Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union should be an opportunity to take
the lead in assuring that the European Union’s approach to asylum seekers in
particular and migrants in general will be marked by a humanitarian approach,
which upholds the dignity of each person and respects their human rights
through policies that are fair, just and transparent . Our EU Presidential
leadership should be marked by our experience of being for centuries a migrant
people – people, on the one hand forced abroad to seek a living and, on the
other, people who chose to go abroad to tell others about the goodness of God
and about the coming amongst us of Christ … THE STRANGER. In the words of His
Holiness, Pope John Paul, “How can we say we welcome Christ if we close the
door to the stranger in our midst?”

The arrival of the stranger in our midst calls us to embrace a new and more
authentic vision of Church. To be Catholic and universal in the truest sense….
calls us in the words of Isaiah ‘to widen the space of our tent'(Is.54:2),
to be part of the Reign of God which gathers together people from every tribe,
language, nation and race'(Rev. 5:9), where all are children of God and ‘there
can be neither Jew nor Greek, ..slave or free person….male or female…
(Gal. 3: 27, 28).

The presence among us of people from a variety of cultural and religious
backgrounds is a gift for us in that it enables us to broaden our experience
of Church, to see that God calls all of humankind into one family and to
realise that the earth is given for all. God’s map does not have the same
boundaries that our map has

Speaking of maps and boundaries, I am reminded of home and of a different but
equally important topic. In Northern Ireland, the political pace is set to
quicken when the formal Review of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
commences on Tuesday next, in Belfast, under the co-chairmanship of the British
and Irish Governments. I wish all the parties well in their deliberations.
Last Thursday evening’s cordial and constructive face-to-face meeting between
Dr. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Taoiseach,
Mr. Bertie Ahern, and their respective delegations, at the Irish Embassy in
London, augurs well for the upcoming Review. I hope and pray that the Review
will take account of all the participants’ viewpoints and difficulties and
will see an end to all forms of paramilitarism and will, in turn, accommodate
the re-establishment of a truly inclusive and robust Northern Ireland Executive
that is both just and stable and committed to peace building and the development
of good relations between all of the people of these islands, irrespective of
political persuasion, creed, class or colour.

Finally, I would like to leave you tonight with the prayer of the Breton fisherman:
“Dear God, be good to me, the sea is so wide and my boat is so small”.

-ENDS-

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