THERE has been horror and disgust at the “hateful” and “intolerant” reaction by some local people to news that a number of Syrian refugees are to be settled in Fermanagh.
Last week the Herald revealed five refugee families, fleeing the war in their home country, where to be settled here. When the story was posted to social media it prompted a bitter debate, with scores of local people taking to their keyboards to express how they would not be welcoming these families to Fermanagh. Much to the horror of other social media users the main theme of many comments was “we need to look after our own first.” Others were more extreme and some were so explicit they had to be removed from the Herald’s Facebook page.
In response to the Facebook comments Enniskillen councillor Tommy Maguire pointed out the families who will be arriving had been clearly identified as refugees rather than economic migrants. “I can’t see that anybody who would claim to be Christian or otherwise would have an adverse reaction to these people being welcome in our area,” said Cllr Maguire.
“There is a certain amount of intolerance out there. There is sort of a tend towards right wing politics across Europe, as we’ve seen.
“It’s not that surprising there are people who jump to these knee-jerk reactions.”
He continued: “It’s easy to go on to social media and voice an opinion. Maybe if they were confronted eyeball to eyeball they’d not be voicing it in such a hateful way.
“It is actually a hate crime to take some of these positions.”
Stating he welcomed the families, Cllr Maguire concluded: “Anyone from an Irish background who knows the history of the Irish people going out across the world and making lives for themselves should really consider that before they pass judgement on welcoming people from other countries that aren’t as well off as ourselves.”
Meanwhile, in response to the comments on the Herald’s Facebook page, leading Enniskillen clerics Mgr Peter O’Reilly and Dean Kenny Hall issued a joint statement reminding people of the spirit of charity that abounds in Fermanagh, and of how the Bible “encourages us to give the most practical help possible to those who are in distress.”
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