I wish to address the media coverage this week concerning protests in reaction to a reported plan to house asylum seekers at a hotel on Achill island. My only knowledge of the issue is that which has been reported. Neither I, nor the local church, have been advised of any plans by the Department of Justice.
It is well known, nationally and internationally, that Achill people are a welcoming people and, in the past, Achill has accepted people from communities from around the world.
Ireland is now moving from an era of austerity and recession to a more prosperous period in our economic cycle. As Christians we are morally obliged to welcome the stranger and, in the context of our improved circumstances, we have a responsibility to share with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We should also be particularly alert to those who are experiencing serious upheaval and a crisis of hope in their lives.
Critically, we also have a moral obligation to serve the common good by preventing the exploitation of sensitive situations concerning vulnerable people by those who trade in hatred and fear.
Most Irish families know only too well that feeling of fear and trepidation that accompanies emigration. Let our faith, and our own lived-experience, be a model of generosity to others.
In relation to Achill, it is important that effective advance planning be undertaken by the State including a full and transparent consultation with local people. Such preparations should go some way to allay fears and misunderstandings while, at the same time, enabling this important human-centred initiative to work sustainably for the whole community.
· Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam
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