The war in Ukraine is all we can think and talk about now. Feeling powerless and mesmerized, we watch as we make them brave the odds against Putin’s hellfire as we insert “I heart Ukraine” hashtags in cyberspace.
But in the age of social media, it’s all too easy to yell and yell before moving on to something else, one of the other causes trending daily on Twitter.
We cannot tire of standing up for Ukrainians.
The images still move us for the time being: columns of people walking on freeways in the dark, pushing prams and wheelchairs. Children sleeping on their mothers’ backs. All exhausted, hungry and desperate. It takes a while for you to realize that this is happening in our lifetime and on our own continent.
Then when we stop being emotional about it – stop imagining that these people’s lives are ours – We are beginning to handle the crisis practically. Our empathy and charity over the past few weeks is for a good reason, but it’s almost useless if the reason for it is forgotten in a few weeks or months. And it’s all too easy to stop the caring, the outrage, and the headlines when we’re watching this war in a peaceful country through a smartphone.
It’s easy to pledge symbolic support for a war in which we have no personal interest. Our politicians, who wear blue and yellow lapels, can easily congratulate themselves on their virtue.
But as Micheál Martin warned last week, this war will have “a price” and it will cost us all.
You see, the war in Ukraine doesn’t end with Micheál Martin turning around and Ireland opening the doors. A quick and happy end to the war in Ukraine is unlikely. Russia might be ready to lose, but that doesn’t mean someone else will win.
Once here, Ukrainian refugees need shelter, food, work and support.
The Taoiseach said, “I can’t promise anyone anything about business cycles. The jury is very divided on that, but this war will have a price.” I hope it’s one that we think is worth paying for.
He said: “It will be much later in the year before we really understand the economic implications of hosting those who are going to come to our country.”
We are emerging from a very different crisis – the pandemic and the lockdowns that have come with it. Not long ago, hundreds of thousands of us were left unemployed for months and our businesses shut down by government policies.
Two years later, with most Covid restrictions lifted and reports of the pandemic replaced in the news by reports of the war, we find ourselves back to a version of normality, almost carrying on as if nothing had happened because Ireland’s pandemic wasn’t imminent Comparison to the war was in Ukraine. We can all see that now.
Since the beginning of the war, we have issued more than 6,500 PPS numbers to Ukrainian refugees, enabling them to work and access various government benefits. We have already taken in up to 9,000 refugees.
But we are a small, very overcrowded island with a public housing waiting list and a health service that is unable to adequately care for those of us who already live here.
Many of us are afraid of the rising prices for everything.
If the ‘breadbasket of Europe’ is ripped from the supply chains, Ireland will suffer.
A worst-case scenario briefing has been presented to government ministers, including the possibility of household gas and electricity rationing and public transport cuts in the wake of the energy crisis. Inflation could soon rise to as much as 10 percent.
When I went to the Syrian camps in Lebanon in 2015, I thought I wouldn’t be shocked because I had visited other refugee camps.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
We imagine that the arrival of tens of thousands of refugees represents a great emergency, but Lebanon, a country the size of a postage stamp, had taken in more than a million Syrians, most with little more than the clothes they wore have fled.
There were refugees living in garages, in an abandoned chicken farm, mixed in with the clutter of Lebanon. You could have four or five families under one roof. On side streets, Syrian families shared small rooms in dark, ramshackle buildings that hadn’t been renovated since Lebanon’s civil war a generation earlier.
At Borg Arab, the ‘Shawish’ or head of family was a 52-year-old man with prominent cheekbones and a hearty laugh. Adnan hails from Homs where before the war he was living the dream of a Syrian man tending his olive farm surrounded by his 11 children. But then war broke out and they left everything they had and pitched a tent in a junkyard. This was just one of countless stories. Every refugee had one.
We took in very few Syrians at the time. We promise to make things better for Ukraine. It will not be easy. But we live in a time of war and our admiration and reverence for the Ukrainians is great. I hope our commitment is.
The people of Ukraine don’t need our signs of virtue or our tears, they need to be able to rely on us. As long as they have to.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/ukrainians-dont-need-our-virtue-signalling-or-tears-they-need-to-be-able-to-rely-on-us-41468755.html “Ukrainians don’t need our signs of virtue or our tears, they need to be able to rely on us”