The Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh has warned Ireland’s Direct Provision centres for asylum seekers could be the new Magdalene Laundries, the institutions that enslaved some 30,000 women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Driving the news

Archbishop Eamon Martin gave the warning to the Irish Times.

“Someone said to me during the summer: ‘is it possible the Direct Provision centres are the Magdalene Laundries of the future?'”, he revealed.

“We in the Church, through very bitter experience have had to accept our failures of the past which were failures by the Church and failures by the State. There are enough alarm bells ringing today to suggest that we need to take a fresh look at this”, Martin said.


Irish bishop rips Government treatment of asylum seekers

Go deeper

The archbishop was speaking just as the Irish Government was forced to withdraw the tender for a new Direct Provision centre at a former hotel in Oughterard, Co Galway.

The Government’s hand was forced by protests by the local community over the “inhumane” and “cruel” conditions asylum seekers face in these centres.

Irish Catholics have “consistently called out the Direct Provision system” for its failures, Martin said.

There was “no doubt this particular incident in Oughterard shows us the failure of the current approach”, he added.

On the reception of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, “we need to think small, we need to think inter-agency where the churches, the communities, the social services, the educational services and all of us can work together”, the archbishop explained.

Don’t miss:

Irish bishop calls for respect for refugees after MP anti-migrant slur

For the record

In conversation with the Irish Times, Martin also had strong words for UK politicians over the Brexit debate, in which he said the voice of Northern Irish Catholics has not been heard.

“We don’t have Catholic representation, let’s call it nationalist/republican representation, in Westminster. The sole Catholic voice in Westminster is Baroness Nuala O’Loan”, Martin denounced.

“The voice of those in the North who voted for Remain, which was a majority voice, that voice has not been represented in the Westminster debates”.

The archbishop blasted UK politicians for the “high level failure of the democratic system” in the Brexit debate that has left people in Northern Ireland “frustrated”, “disempowered” and “disenfranchised”.

“They simply do not know what’s happening”, Martin said.

“I would go so far to say the factionalism that has emerged in the whole Brexit debate has become dangerous”, he denounced, adding that the tension has led to “an increase in sympathy with and even support for violent and aggressive activity”.

“In some communities across the North there has been a rise in dissident activity and, I don’t want to exaggerate this, there has also has been an increase in sympathy with dissident voices on the ground”, Martin warned.

Next on Novena:

Irish archbishop: “Dangerous factionalism” of Brexit “erodes integrity of democracy”

Irish archbishop blames Brexit, sectarianism for time of “dangerous uncertainty”