19 May 2005


Fury over McDowell’s asylum seeker remarks

19 May 2005
By Cormac O’Keeffe

JUSTICE MINISTER Michael McDowell was strongly criticised yesterday for saying asylum seekers invented “cock and bull” stories to stay in the country.
Mr McDowell told the Oireachtas Justice Committee the patience of the Irish people would be tested if they knew the “cock and bull” stories being given by people looking for asylum.

He said these included that they thought they had arrived in Canada, or they faced ritual sacrifice in their home country.

“I would prefer to interview these people at the airport, but the UN insists that I go through due procedure,” Mr McDowell said.

He said there was “a lot of political correctness that goes on here and it is manifestly bogus, far-fetched nonsense and it’s about time we said it”.

Representative groups said the comments were “inflammatory”.

Héilean Rosenstock-Armie of the Irish Refugee Council said: “The language used is inflammatory and perpetuates the stereotype that all asylum seekers are bogus, which is a word we don’t like to use”.

She said that just because people were not granted refugee status did not mean they were ‘bogus’ or had no grounds to stay in the country on grounds of humanitarian protection.

Ms Rosenstock-Armie said the minister talked about due process and judicial review as if they were a waste of time. “I’m horrified that a barrister is saying this. He’s assuming that some people are entitled to due process and fair procedures but others are not.”

Rosanna Flynn of Residents Against Racism said: “That man should be relieved of his position if that is how he is thinking.”

She said he was casting all asylum seekers in the same, negative, light and that this had knock-on effects for racism.

“He’s saying things like ritual sacrifices don’t happen. They do happen.”

Labour Party justice spokesman Joe Costello said the minister should keep an open mind “because there are a lot of people around the world living in a position of great fear of persecution”.

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