The Glass Wall

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Whenever we hear about refugees in Ireland the term ‘Direct Provision’ gets thrown around a lot. Politicians don’t like talking about it and activists love screaming about ending it. Must be important so. But what the feck is it?

Direct provision is the name given to the system for asylum seekers who enter our country.  The system is supposed to meet the needs of asylum seekers while they await decisions on their asylum application. Essential services such as medical care, accommodation and three meals a day at set times are provided. Sounds grand doesn’t it? But it’s really not.

The Irish government do not allow Asylum seekers to work. Even after EU policy stated that there’s a requirement for member states to allow access to the labour market. So instead of allowing asylum seekers to work, the government gives them a whopping personal allowances of €19.10 per adult, and €15.60 per child per week (wouldn’t even buy ya a pack of amber and 6 dutch). At Christmas you’d think the government might be a little bit sound seeing the season that’s in it, but no. They were given the 80% bonus on to their weekly allowances (That’s €16 if you can’t work out the maths). Most people were forced between having a nice Christmas dinner or buying presents for their kids.

On top of this, Asylum seekers are excluded from social welfare, social housing and third level education. Primary and secondary education is provided, but without college or a job to look for afterwards it all seems a bit hopeless. A child who achieves the necessary points for the course she wished to pursue, but had spent four years idle, is unable to afford University and forbidden to find a job that might someday, enable her to pay these fees. It all seems a bit baffling and nonsensical. 

The centres themselves are quite grim. Think the ‘magdalene laundries 2.0’ (some of the centres actually used to be magdalene laundries). The centres are placed in the middle of nowhere so the government can keep them out of sight and out of mind. 28 of the 34 centres are privately owned, too similar to the American prison system for me. This means that theres no common policy on the standard of living for people in these centres. Individuals live in rooms with several other adults, and parents often live in only one room with their children. Bathrooms are shared.

Asylum seekers live in what has been termed ‘enforced idleness’. Basically forced to do nothing while their applications are being sorted, most centres don’t even allow cooking your own meals. Religion and cultural identity are things Initially meant to be a short term solution for processing asylum ‘6 months’ they said. They were wrong. The majority of asylum seekers spend over four years in Direct Provision.

The lives of those who seek asylum in Ireland, are lives utterly in limbo. Imagine being forced to flee your country, witnessing the horrors of war and making the perilous journey to Europe, arriving and being treated this way. 

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Direct Provision, is a system that ultimately presses pause on the lives of asylum seekers, while the rest of the world, as well as their futures glide by. Yes they’re safe but it’s almost a sadistic way they’re treated when they arrive in the ‘most hospitable country in the world’.

Once you know what direct provision is it’s easy to see why people are going mad about it, and blatantly obvious why you never hear about it being discussed in the Dáil. Another shame of the nation, trying to be swept under the rug. I for one, want it to end.

By Siubhan O’Donnell

It’s the 21st century, information is everywhere. Knowledge is at the tip of your fingers. What’s happening on the other side of the world can be found out within seconds. Anything from a country’s economic situation to memes for wholesome teens are just a click away. Anybody can post or check pretty much anything. You’d think surely people can call bullshit on what’s written because it can be checked so quickly?

Wrong.

This freedom has now allowed almost anything to be written anonymously without much backlash. Clickbait websites use bold headlines that sound appealing to get cheap and easy clicks. But they often contain factually questionable material. Because there’s so much info being thrown at us, it’s easy to believe what’s written in front of us without actually questioning it.

What is “Post-Truth” actually trying to say?

Post-truth is as good as saying “I think this, therefore this is a fact” (Could be Donald Trump’s personal motto). I can start out as stretching small inaccuracies all the way up to flat out lying. In fact objective facts don’t have a place in this post-truth world. This use of falsehood in any situation has the effect of constantly influencing public opinion, often because the falsehoods are more personally appealing than the objective facts. The term can be applied in large number of ways including how tabloids sell their papers or how politicians can obtain public approval.

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Politicians have often had a tendency to stretch the truth and in a lot of cases tend to get away with it. This has resulted in easy access fact checking websites such as FactCheck.org or PolitiFact.com to pop up. Check em out y’all.

Is it that serious and do politicians really make up stuff that much?

Looking at an easy example of recent US elect Donald Trump. In the last year he’s come out with some of the most obscene statements unashamedly and obviously false. He and his administration flat out lied about the attendance numbers (compensating for something, eh Donald?). Instead of just admitting he was wrong and just retracting the statement himself and his administration insisted they were correct and were just following a set of “alternative facts”. Yes that is correct. Alternative facts also known as lies, and they stood by this because it fits their agenda.

Trump isn’t the only politician to be subject to post-truth politics. During the Brexit campaign a number of the leave campaign tactics were declared to be misleading (see  pic below). Although they were not outright lies, they were inaccurate enough to not only be incorrect but also to be strong enough to disconnect the facts from the emotional connections that people wanted to be true.

pt-2         This bus from the Brexit campaign was (‘post-truth’ ) a lie. Can’t even trust buses anymore 😥 

In a world where facts are so easy to find and truth is so close there should be no lies from politicians, media, teachers or anyone for that matter. So the next time you listen to somebody talk or read an article, check the facts.

We all think of democracy as the best system. What else is there? A dictatorship? Make Michael D. Higgins the ‘High King of Ireland’? (That would be pretty cool). It’s really the only option out there at the moment. But democracy does have its pitfalls.

In a democracy, the people decide how their country is led by electing people who will represent them best. A simple idea, the most popular way in the world to run a country. But within democracies ‘populism’ is popping up all over the West. The media constantly use it, politicians slag each other off by saying it, and you can’t talk about Trump without it. But what exactly is it?

Populism is the act of trying to use the will of the people to a political end. Put simply, populism is politicians running on a platform of what the people want, and the people voting for them. Populism might be said to be democracy at it’s purest. The battle between the corrupt elite and the ordinary decent people. The 99% vs the 1%.

The Good

It’s a bad idea to assume populism is always a bad thing. Assuming is generally bad, so let’s not.

Populism has actually worked. The Argentinian populist movement of the 1950’s ushered in several welfare reforms, and helped overthrow a dictatorship. The populist governments of Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt are considered some of the greatest US presidents in history.

Bernie Sander’s campaign in the Democratic Party primaries was populist as well, this time as a socialist, focusing on healthcare and education reform. Bernie was a sound populist. He tapped into the inequality in the US, and his policies were all based around reason and fact. But that’s rarely ever the case. A lot of his supporters jumped on the Trump bandwagon after he lost the primaries.

The Bad

Trump aside, Berlesconi (the quintessential ‘lad’) and Maggie Thatcher have been labelled populist, but I’m pretty sure shafting the miners wasn’t what the people wanted.

Closer to home and the Healy-Raes down in Kerry are about as populist as it gets. Taking the taxes from the lads up in Dublin to fix the pothole in your driveway. They represent the “the plain people who eat their dinner in the middle of the day”. But they also believe that Noah’s Ark is enough evidence to dismiss climate change. Populism is shit sometimes, and we do it too.

The Ugly

The Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum ran a populist campaign focusing on issues like immigration, funding of the health service, and strengthening of British sovereignty. There was a large amount of dismissal of what some considered elitist facts – the infamous “sick of experts” slogan attests to this. But sure don’t we have ‘alternative’ facts now?

Trump used populist rhetoric throughout his campaign. The targeting of  white middle-class Americans with the ‘They took our jobs!’ narrative ultimately lead him to victory. Trump’s campaign is a branch of populism known as demagogy: the exploitation of prejudice and ignorance to achieve political success.

Any system which relies on a public vote opens up the possibility of the public being exploited. But any system which does not factor in the people’s vote isn’t great either. Populism is not an inherently bad thing, but can result in people voting against their own interests. See below…

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When voting use your brain. Look at all the facts. Examine both sides of an argument and decide after that. Think about the consequences. Don’t be like Nicole.

By Andrew Connolly & Ciaran Boyle

As we delve ever deeper into the academic year, it is gradually becoming more socially acceptable to ask “what are your plans for the summer?” While many will opt for the standard J-1 adventure in the U.S. and others will opt for a “stay-at-home” summer and find work in Ireland, there will inevitably be a large group of people who will choose to volunteer in a developing country.

As the majority of volunteer programmes require some fundraising before departing, it is this group of people who will have to be well prepped to face the inevitable questions “Where is this money going exactly?” and “Are you really doing anything good for the world or is it just an elaborate holiday?”

It is of course extremely important that these questions are asked, and that issues of “voluntourism” are appropriately addressed.

But equally important is accepting that, for many volunteer programmes, there are in fact perfectly valid answers to these questions and well thought-through policies to address these issues.

That is not to say that all volunteer programmes abroad are infallible and should be free from criticism because “we’re a charity.” It is probably fair to apply the concept of “voluntourism” to many NGO’s. However, we must be extremely careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and place an unfair label on completely transparent and well thought through volunteering projects such as the Suas Volunteer Programme.

As almost all of the several hundreds of volunteers who have worked with Suas will tell you, this volunteer programme is not a holiday. It is an intensive 10- week teaching placement in India or Zambia with rigorous pre-departure training. Volunteers work 40 hours a week as teaching assistants in extremely under privileged schools and are often involved in running extra-curricular activities with the schools as well.

It is all too easy to throw cynicism at the concept of students who aren’t primary school teachers becoming English teachers for the summer. A much harder task is to carefully analyse the work of Suas volunteers and what it can offer to local communities in India and Zambia.

When deciding how much good volunteering abroad is doing for local communities, it must be remembered that it is the partner organisations in India and Zambia who run the schools that are asking Suas to send over enthusiastic volunteers who speak fluent English. It is not the other way around. So who is best qualified to decide whether volunteers are doing useful work or not? Surely it is the teachers and charity workers who run the schools in India and Zambia on a daily basis, and it is at their request that volunteers go abroad to teach in these schools.

A skill held by every Suas volunteer is fluency in English, something which is lacking in the vast majority of teachers with whom volunteers work. While many of the children that volunteers work with are extremely good at recognizing individual words, conversational English is all but non-existent. As anyone who went to Irish or French college during secondary school will tell you, the most effective way to learn a language is to have no option but to speak it constantly. When you want to get your point across and the only way to do that is to say it in a different language, you are forced to constantly think in that language.

So when there are 30 excited children enthusiastically participating in a game or lesson that this new, foreign teacher has introduced, the only way to play the game or enjoy the lesson is to listen intently to the instructions in English, and to constantly attempt to speak in English.

The benefits of volunteers are not limited to improvements in fluency however. Attendance in schools increases significantly while enthusiastic volunteers are working there, and while it is not permanent, this increase is observed for several weeks after volunteers have left. Since Suas volunteers work for 10 weeks, improving attendance in schools for this time and for weeks after is not by any means insignificant. 10 weeks after all is comparable to an entire semester in university.

English is one of the 3 main languages in India and as a result teachers are expected to be, in theory, trilingual. Since this is rarely the case, fluent English speaking volunteers are a valuable aid to teachers.

It is not true that volunteers do work that should otherwise be done by paid employees, as has been wrongly noted in the past. Volunteers work as teaching assistants, and are an additional resource available to teachers. Most importantly, volunteers help to reduce the student: teacher ratio, allowing teachers to focus on the needs of individual students.

As for the question of where the fundraised money goes, Suas is about as transparent as you can get; the financial statement being freely available at www.suas.ie.

Its great that we live in a society where people care enough to criticise volunteering projects that might not in fact be doing any good for the world. But when we ask the question: “Does volunteering abroad actually do any good for local communities?” we must accept the fact that the cynics inside of us may not hold the correct answer, and that for many organisations, the answer might well be “Yes, it does”.

By Neil Robertson

 

Why is something as natural as sweating or hunger still stigmatized? Shame and secrecy are attached to something that effects half the population on Earth once a month. The embarrassment shrouding  the discussion effects women’s self-esteem, education, equality, and in developing countries, their health.

Myths and stories from biblical times continue to permeate our society. In ancient Jerusalem, red tents were put up to keep women, who had their periods, inside because they were seen as dirty and untouchable. While not so extreme as that, shadows of these ideologies can still be seen in Ireland and  internationally today.

In Ireland

I don’t think I’ve ever had an open and direct conversation with a woman about periods. It feels awkward for us both. It shouldn’t, but it does. Embarrassingly, I had thought, up until very recently that periods were just one bit of blood that fell out of a vagina once a month. At home, if I open a press and see a tampon I almost freak out. Even writing this article I’m struggling.

In primary school girls and boys were split up for sexual education. The fact that the majority of schools in Ireland are Catholic can feed into this. Rather than objective information about sex, and  menstruation emphasis  is placed on pregnancy, STIs, and in some cases abstinence. No wonder we’re so sexually repressed.

Having gone to an all boys secondary school, the idea of what periods were remained a mystery to me. There was essentially no discussion  of menstruation apart from one uncomfortable SPHE class. The only other times i can think of when it was talked about was if one of the female teachers was in a bad mood the obvious  “She must be on her period” jokes circulated the classroom.

We were young when we’d make comments like that, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if one of my friends said that today. That kind of language just fuels the stigma attached to periods. How are we supposed to achieve an equal society if there’s still an attitude that women are completely irrational when they’re on their periods. This kind of rhetoric can feed into the idea that women shouldn’t be in powerful positions.

Maybe if there were a few more women in powerful positions the nonsensical luxury tax on sanitary products wouldn’t exist.

A product that is a hygienic necessity to half of our population is considered a ‘luxury item’ and taxed appropriately. A women will pay upwards of €3000 in Ireland from the time her menstrual cycle starts until it finishes. If anything this is irrational.

The Developing World

The stigma doesn’t stop at our borders, it has major consequences for girls and women in developing countries. In India menstruation is a taboo subject. Myths surrounding menstruation still exist in society and are perpetuated by the lack of awareness and openness to discussion about menstruation. Women on their periods are forbidden from engaging in activities such as visiting temples, drinking from the water supply, washing their hair and in some cases are not allowed to eat rice or cold foods.

In a lot developing countries there is no formal education on menstruation. Leading girls to feel ashamed, alone and fearing they are sick when they first have their periods. Along with no education on the matter there are no facilities in schools to change and dispose of sanitary pads. The stigma already surrounding periods makes this an extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing experience for young girls. Girls miss school once a month, and in some cases drop out entirely after their menstrual cycle first begins. In Eastern Africa as much as 1/10 girls do not go to school during their period.

A lack of education about menstrual hygiene leads to unhygienic practices. 70% of reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. This has a significant effect on the maternal mortality rates of women in India.

If girls are to ask their mother, they are simply handed a pad or cloth and instructed to use it monthly. In urban areas girls often use reusable cloths. These clothes should be dried in the sun, however, women are often too embarrassed to do so. This means that they  will not be disinfected for their next use. In rural areas women often use sand, sawdust, leaves and ash instead of a sanitary pad.

If in Ireland, a very progressive and developed society, we can’t openly talk about menstrual hygiene and address the issues and stigmas around it, how can we expect the problems faced by girls in developing countries to be addressed?

 

By Ciaran Boyle

 

 

Europe is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since World War II; the refugee crisis is worsening, claiming more lives and ruining more families, every single day. And what have we done about it? As a society, extremely little. We have stood back and watched as one of the greatest human tragedies in history has played out across our sister nations in Europe, and barely raised a finger. We have watched babies drown, families torn asunder, men and women cast from their homes and their lives by forces outside their control.

We have watched children fleeing to Europe via the Mediterranean, having lost their families to a bomb, a bullet or a boat, hoping for a blanket to be spread across their shoulders and to be taken in. What have they received from Ireland? Nothing. We have housed just one unaccompanied minor refugee in the last year.. There are 1,022 children without a family in Calais refugee camp, with thousands more in camps from Greece to Dunkirk. This is our national shame.

Some sections of Irish society claim that we have simply don’t have the resources to help. We have a homelessness crisis, disgraceful hospital waiting lists, schools are filling up too fast. How can we possibly afford to add thousands more people, in need of acute care and support, on top of that?

Comparison of national and international issues

“This is not a question of budget – we will not be taking from the HSE to give to refugees. It is simply a question of examining our attitudes.”

I would never argue that the issues Irish people face every day are not valid or important. Hospital waiting lists cost lives. Homelessness is unacceptable. These issues pale in comparison, though, to the ordeals endured by Syrian refugees. These people have fled from bombs, travelled overseas in boats not fit for back garden fishing, been beaten, rejected and cast out by European society upon arrival. These people deserve all the help we can give.

Furthermore, this is not a question of budget – we will not be taking from the HSE to give to refugees. It is simply a question of examining our attitudes. In the short term, a refugee crisis response could cost us money, but in Germany the intake of refugees has been proven to have bolstered the economy. Syrian refugees are not merely hungry mouths looking for food. Before bombs began to fall, Syria was a country of bankers, builders and business people. It will take time, but these people want to work, to contribute and become self supporting.

Is it even Europe’s problem?

There is a growing refrain that this isn’t Europe’s problem at all; or at least, that it shouldn’t be. “Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia or her neighbours take in refugees?” is being asked more frequently. People point to the vast resources in Saudi Arabia and ask, why don’t we expect a neighbouring country of Syria to do more? Since the end of the Second World War, the European Project has stood as a paragon of inclusivity, welcoming and fairness across the world.

Europe has stood for open borders, for free exchange of ideas, cultures and languages. The same cannot be said of Saudi Arabia. In the last week, the UN has condemned Saudi Arabian human rights abuses, including the continued practice of stoning and the institutionalised subjugation of women and girls. This is not a country by which Europe should measure its efforts.

Suspension of human rights

“No democracy has ever been made safer or more secure when human rights are “suspended” in response to a pressing crisis.”

Europe should be leading the way, showing the world what it is to be welcoming and humane in the face of terror. This has simply not been the case. Until recently, some EU member states had been seen to be generous and welcoming. In 2015, Germany accepted and resettled over one million refugees. However, on March 18 of this year, the EU ensured that history would not look kindly on its response to the crisis. On that day, the 28 EU heads of State, including Enda Kenny, signed the EU-Turkey deal.

At its core, the agreement aims to address the overwhelming flow of smuggled migrants and asylum seekers traveling across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands by allowing Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants” arriving after March 20. In exchange, EU Member States will increase resettlement of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, accelerate visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals, and boost existing financial support for Turkey’s refugee population.

The deal, in my opinion, is not only illegal but also a shockingly dangerous precedent to set. The EU has been proud to stand over its human rights record for the past 40 years; it has been a world leader in protecting and regulating human rights. This deal jeopardises all of that progress.

No democracy has ever been made safer or more secure when human rights are “suspended” in response to a pressing crisis. It is universally the first step of a dictatorship, to undermine and ultimately do away with the fundamental human rights we all enjoy. That process begins with the suspension of one right in response to an emergency and in this case that emergency is the refugee crisis. A lack of respect for human rights is an extremely slippery slope. Without a supreme respect for human rights, such as that of the refugees to safe harbour and an appeal against forced expulsion, our justice system crumbles and decays.

Lack of empathy

“… after a couple of days, the photos slip down the timeline, the news cycle moves on and we forget. This episodic outrage is what we need to combat.”

Although there is no doubt that we are all worried, our collective attention span has become shockingly short. Never has that been clearer than in our response to this crisis. We see heart-wrenching images of children and adults, covered in the dust and the destruction of a war they have nothing to do with, splashed across our Facebook timelines and our newspapers. We see these images, and read the stories of children like Aylan Kurdi, and are outraged. We share the posts, we like the photos, some of us even take to the comments section to fight against the xenophobia and racism that so often can be found there.

Yet after a couple of days, the photos slip down the timeline, the news cycle moves on and we forget. This episodic outrage is what we need to combat. It cannot be enough that our sympathies are played on for a couple of days at a time, to be forgotten shortly thereafter. Real change happens when we do not simply communicate our disgust and dismay at this crisis via our like and share buttons. It happens when we go to events, when we educate ourselves and those around us, and when we loudly demand change from our representatives.

For change to happen, the EU needs a shift in priorities. National governments, including our own, need to be consistently lobbied and pressured to step back from retrogressive and inhumane deals such as the deal with Turkey. In order for that to happen, Trinity needs to become a national hub of education and activism, and needs to spread the message campus and nationwide. Trinity has a proud tradition of social justice activism; it is time to tap into that activist spirit once more. Individuals, societies and the SU are doing their bit, but unfortunately their efforts too often fly under the radar.

“Every day that we remain inactive, every day that we choose to stay silent, rather than add our voice to calls for change, is a day that thousands are at risk. We need your help.”

Next week, the 8×8 film festival will arrive at Trinity. 8×8 is a week of activism awareness, overseen by Suas Trinity, and focuses on a different issue of global importance each year. The festival’s focus this year is on the refugee crisis, and the reality that no two stories are the same. No one in the world can say they have the same set of conditions and circumstances as the person standing next to them – a reality easily lost in the madness of this crisis.

There is no more time to waste. For the past four years, people have been dying on the shores of Europe in vast numbers, and that tragedy has not abated. Every day that we remain inactive, every day that we choose to stay silent, rather than add our voice to calls for change, is a day that thousands are at risk. We need your help. You do not need to be an expert, or have any of the answers. All you need is compassion and interest. If you do nothing else this year, I am begging each and every one of you to lend a hand. Get involved with Suas, or any of the other groups on campus that are working to combat the crisis. In 40 years, your children will ask what you did to help the Syrian refugees. Help make change happen, and be on the right side of history.

By Kevin Keane.

Originally Published on:

http://trinitynews.ie/trinity-ireland-and-europes-response-to-the-greatest-human-rights-disaster-since-wwii/

Generation Fucked

We are the young people of Ireland. The students. The hard workers.  The creative. The highly educated. The lazy. The narcissistic. The entitled. Millennials. Generation snowflake. Generation fucked. Whatever you want to call us.

Trapped in a system that doesn’t represent us, we’re often left out in decisions made by our government. A demographic that has inherited a world in turmoil. Grim job prospects, emigration, constant increases in college fees, the list goes on.

It’s our future that they’re fucking up. It’s time we take action. Time to smash the glass wall.

Social Activism

Social activism in Ireland has come a long way since the spark from the marriage referendum. Young Irish people have proved time and again that given the platform they can achieve incredible things. Apollo house, the National College of Art & Design sit in and the Repeal movement are some examples of this, but there are many, many more.

From the outside social activism can seem like an exclusive circle of professionals and experts, but that’s really not the case. Anyone can get involved through a variety of ways. Your background or how much you know doesn’t matter, all you need to have is a passion to make a change.

It’s easy to see problems and talk about them, but it’s not as hard as you might think to take action.

The Glass Wall

The Glass Wall came out of nowhere. We went to an exhibition on direct provision in the NCAD Gallery. By chance we started talking to the curator of the gallery and she offered the space in the gallery for us to promote social issues in anyway we wanted. We ran with the idea, going through a whole series of changes in ideas of how to go about it. Finally we ended up with trying to inspire social activism, in the same way we had been.

Organic, grassroots and creative activism is what we’re all about. Our aim is to facilitate this in any way we can. We’re going to inform people about these issues in an accessible way, through the content on our website and through social media. We’re running events that both raise money for charities and seek to inspire people to take action. Finally, we’ll be hosting workshops and guest speakers that can help people on their way to act.

For anyone who wants to make a positive change in the world we’re here to guide you on your way.