No ‘one way’ to be Irish

Tonight I attended a hustings event organised by the Migrant Rights Centre. Representatives of immigrant groups and communities questioned candidates on our views, and recounted their own experiences of Irish immigration laws and processes. There was a good deal of frustration in the room, and a sense that the system is unfair, painfully slow, and too often insensitive. I spoke at tonight’s meeting about the importance of safeguarding labour standards, wage levels and social security for all workers. As an employment lawyer I have a sense of the particular vulnerabilities faced by immigrant workers. They need additional supports in order to achieve their basic employment rights.

I believe strongly that Europe must strive to be a welcoming continent. This will be a guiding principle for me if I am elected to the European Parliament. The laws and procedures applied by Member States, including Ireland, must also reflect this principle. I also believe that Irish MEPs – no less than others – must challenge and confront racism and xenophobia, and do so directly in the European Parliament when necessary.

A very positive development in the local elections is the number of candidates we are seeing from immigrant communities. They include Labour’s Yulia Ghumman in Swords, and others around the country. Having councillors like Yulia as members of local authorities can only enrich our democracy, as well as raise awareness of the many obstacles and difficulties faced by immigrants and their communities.

As I said at the meeting: there is no ‘one way’ to be Irish.

We hit the ground running today, with an early stop to meet city centre commuters (interrupted by BBC radio for a short interview), a mid-morning trip to Drumcondra, walkabouts on Henry St. and Grafton St., finishing up at a city centre LUAS stop. And there’s 16 more days of this?