Sunday, April 21, 2024

Trust: a five-letter word that rolls off the tongue but can result in the generation of great things

Trust is one of the most valuable things in this world. With it, people feel safe and comfortable, and are sure they will not be exploited, especially by those in authority. Without it, there is little else but fear and apprehension.

At this time in Mullingar, two government Departments (Justice & Equality and Integration) and the agencies therein are asking the
people of the town to trust them. This time, it’s in the context of the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers and/or refugees in Columb Barracks.

It’s a big ask, and it’s even bigger given the track record of both Departments where information has too often been scare.

The proposal is that 15 tents will be erected to provide temporary accommodation for upto 120 single men. But will it be 15, and is it really no more than 120 single men? The proposal is that the tents will be a temporary measure and that prefabs will be erected in their place…but will they? The proposal is that anyone placed in the new accommodation will spend no more than three weeks there before being given something better, somewhere else…but is that true?

Unfortunately for the Government, plans to use Columb for this use were being discussed by people all over the town in the week leading up to confirmation. We all knew; exactly what we knew is a different matter, but ‘we all knew’.

Yet again, the Government allowed events to overtake it. No matter what the Departments state now, some people will believe what they heard last week and, since they aren’t the same thing, there is the mistrust. Given an opportunity to keep things clean, Government incompetence or perhaps bureaucratic necessities infected the wound before there even was one.

On Thursday last and on Monday of this week, the inevitable protest at what was happening in Columb Barracks was held and it was attended by supporters and objectors, by people of the ‘left’ and the ‘right’, and by people who were just interested to know ‘the truth’. All of them, irrespective of their leanings, were entitled to that.

Surely there is every reason to believe that this Government, in the context of accepting refugees and accommodating asylum seekers, has always been one or more steps behind? The war in Ukraine is one year old now and still there isn’t sufficient accommodation for the refugees coming from there, while conditions in ‘temporary’ direct provision centres continue to appall.

And that’s before you factor in Ireland’s own number of homeless which now stands at a shocking 11,500.

‘The Government and its local representatives have a lot of work to do to persuade us that this is a good thing’

Whether you support Government parties or not, surely it is ‘the truth’ that it has made a complete mess of things in accepting and accommodating refugees/asylum seekers, so why, then, would anyone trust what its Departments are up to now at Columb Barracks? Is confidence high that things will be done well and that assurances (for example, that community groups and events would continue as normal there even with ‘tent city’ in place) are valid?

The Government and its local representatives in Mullingar have a lot of work to do to persuade most people that this is a good thing. So far, as usual, it hasn’t got off to a good start.

So certainly criticise some of those at the Mullingar protests for their beliefs, whatever they were; not only were they entitled to them, they will fuelled by incompetence at a national level which may not end anytime soon.

Let's hear it.

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