United Against Racism have called a protest at 6pm today at Fine Gael headquarters, 51 Upper Mount Street. This is to voice opposition to Four Fine Gael’s MEPs – Mairead McGuinness, Maria Walsh, Frances Fitzgerald and Sean Kelly – who voted against a resolution which called on EU member states ‘to enhance proactive search and rescue operation by providing sufficient vessels and equipment’ for migrants who were drowning in the Mediterranean sea.

The resolution also called on EU countries to open their ports to rescue ships.

The context is that 933 people have drowned in the Mediterranean sea so far this year. When NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières rescue people, they are prevented from entering EU ports.

Fine Gael voted with the far right to stop this basic humanitarian resolution. It lost by just two votes.

Afterwards, Mairead McGuiness tried to confuse the issue by claiming that they voted against because the resolution also required Frontex, the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, to be more transparent on is activities. She claimed this would have helped traffickers.

But her excuse only revealed the deep cynicism at the heart of right-wing politics. The resolution explicitly acknowledged Frontex’s ‘legal obligation not to reveal operational information’ which would jeopardise its objectives.

Nevertheless it demanded that Frontex make other information concerning its degree of co-operation with the Libyan coast guard available.

Libya receives money from the EU to stop migrants reaching Europe. It has made it illegal – punishable by imprisonment – to flee the country and last year the Libyan coast guard picked up 15,000 people. Many of these were brought to slave camps where they were tortured and raped.

Mairead McGuinness and Fine Gael want to keep these activities secret – and this is what her ‘excuse’ reveals.

This points to the fake liberalism that lies at the heart of the EU. The EU elite and its dominant grouping, the European People’s Party’ talk about the danger of ‘pull factors’ which attract more migrants to Europe.

They fail, however; to spell out what their ‘push factors’ are for keeping migrants out. 

Last week’s vote and Mairead McGuinness’s subsequent excuse, however, helps to spells it out. They are willing to let hundreds of migrants drown in the Mediterranean sea and thousands of others be returned to Libyan slave clamps to ‘deter’ others from coming to Europe.

We live in a very sick world and we need to bring real change. We need to challenge the  right wing who scapegoat migrants to protect their own privileges.

People Before Profit are therefore in full support of today’s protest and will work with all individuals, communities and organisations who want to fight for the rights of migrants and for a better society.

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin is the People Before Profit candidate for the Dundrum ward in Dublin Rathdown. He is a musician, a Psychology graduate and a native Irish speaker. Eoghan is part of a newly politicising generation of young activists who are no longer willing to accept a political system that allows thousands of people to remain homeless, that leaves tens of thousands of people on hospital waiting lists, that leaves asylum seekers languishing in the glorified prisons that are the Direct Provision system, and that is doing nothing to stop an existential threat to the human species due to climate change. The water charges and repeal movements have shown over the last few years that people power can win positive changes, and Eoghan believes we can draw inspiration from these victories in other struggles. As a Psychology graduate, Eoghan has a major interest in mental health, and is particularly concerned with a system that is a breeding ground for mental distress. With people now being forced to work longer hours, experiencing mortgage distress, paying exorbitant rents, childcare and other costs, and with almost 800,000 people living in poverty, it is little wonder that we are experiencing a mental health crisis. While the increased awareness of mental health issues in recent years is welcome, it has not come with any significant action on the part of the government to improve the situation. Eoghan believes the fight for improved mental health is two-faceted: We need to fight for better services, but we must also fight for a better society that provides people with their needs and allows them to flourish, explore their own creativity, and enjoy their lives. Eoghan has been heavily involved in campaigns for housing, repeal of the 8th amendment, ending direct provision and many other issues over the last few years. He believes that real change can only come through grass roots campaigns from below and if elected, he will use his position as a platform for progressive ideas and to further build these campaigns.

© 2020 People Before Profit