WE in Fáilte Inishowen and Inishowen Together awoke yesterday to dark, alarming news of the arson attack on the Caiseal Mara hotel in Moville.
A family were in there, in their beds – perhaps whoever sent fire through the windows did not think of that.
Whatever it was that the perpetrator or perpetrators thought they were achieving, they have failed. A hateful and cowardly act, done alone in the dark, was resoundingly answered in much brighter hours that followed in Moville, by the hundreds of people who gathered at our community meeting to affirm our support, solidarity and welcome for the asylum seekers who will be arriving in the town in the coming weeks.
The meeting, which packed out the Methodist Hall, sought to illuminate the realities of the Direct Provision system and to offer ideas and advice on how the community can prepare in order to do our best by the new Moville residents. Its key speakers – who very kindly travelled from Dublin to be with us – were activist Lucky Khambule of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, and artist and researcher Vukasin Nedeljkovic of Asylum Archive. Both Lucky and Vukasin have experienced what it is to have “your life placed on hold” as an asylum seeker in Direct Provision in Ireland. Having heard their insights into the dismal system by which our State fails to offer a genuine welcome or real home to people escaping dire circumstances, we can see that having open hearts is not enough. We will also need watchful eyes to hold the Government to account. We need to ensure the best provision, while appealing for an end to Direct Provision and the introduction of an immediate right to work without restriction.
Lucky and Vukasin also gave great examples of the effectiveness of simple kindness that they have encountered.
Contributions also came from local clergy – Methodist reverend Alison Gallagher and Catholic priest Fr Pat O’Hagan PP – who presented a united stand of the town’s religious communities in solidarity with the refugees, and pledged their time, space and help.
Several gardai attended, and Sergeant Goretti Sheridan spoke at the outset to assure the people of Moville that the force was doing its level best to get to the bottom of the incident of arson that had taken place in the early hours.
Speakers from Fáilte Inishowen and Inishowen Together included Tracy Cullen-Sheehan, Caroline Maguire; Siobhán Shiels and Therese McKenna.
Many people throughout the room stood to speak about how they would like their organisations to contribute to welcoming the asylum seekers to Moville.
These included the local librarian, the town’s educators from pre-school to secondary level, the Inishowen Development Partnership, the Moville and District Family Resource Centre, Moville Men’s Shed, mental health advocates, among many others.
Politicians and activists in attendance who vouched their warm support included Thomas Pringle TD; civil rights campaigners Eamon McCann and Goretti Horgan; and local councillor Martin Farren.
A significant number of supporters had travelled from Derry – with organisations such as Derry Well Woman committing their input and expertise; and Eamon McCann noting, amid Brexit talks, the sad fact that there is already a hard border for refugees in Ireland and that those arriving in Moville may not visit or even travel through the North.
At the end of the meeting, more than 50 people queued to give their contact details and volunteer their time and individual talents to help in welcoming the new residents to Moville.
The strength of feeling and warmth in the room was incredible. The atmosphere was respectful and hopeful.
The dark and alarming act that happened hours before has galvanised the community of Moville to show what we are really made of; that this is a beautiful town of compassion and openness.
To get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org