herald

Thursday 23 March 2017

'Ireland's not doing enough in refugee crisis', says Deirdre

Deirdre O’Kane has hit out at the bureaucracy hindering efforts to ease the Syrian refugee crisis
Deirdre O’Kane has hit out at the bureaucracy hindering efforts to ease the Syrian refugee crisis

Comedian Deirdre O'Kane has hit out at the Irish Government for failing to do enough to help Syrian refugees.

The well-known actress has said that the state has been so bogged down by the bureaucracy involved in taking in refugees that Ireland has only taken a fraction of the numbers that it promised.

"They promised they'd take 4,000 by the end of 2016 so, of that 4,000 we said we'd take, we've taken 550. It's terrible, it's not good enough. It's very, very bad.

Infrastructure

"A lot of it is down to them saying, 'We can't just take them, we must have homes, we must have schools, we must have infrastructure.'

"And that's all correct but that's also very slow. There's an awful lot of red tape. In a way, I prefer to just get the refugees here and maybe sort all that out later but that's not the way it works.

"But you know, there's 10,000 missing children in Europe and really, we'd be better to just get them here where they'd be looked after," she told the Herald.

Deirdre said that it was lovely to see the reaction from locals in Roscommon's Ballaghadereen to the news that their town would be welcoming 80 Syrian refugees next month, around 40 of whom will be children.

"They've had a very positive reaction. It was really uplifting because the way the Government speak, you'd think there wasn't goodwill and you'd think the Irish people weren't up for this," she said.

Saying how the refugee crisis "breaks my heart", Deirdre is now playing her part as she helps to organise the country's first-ever Comic Relief event.

She has enlisted the help of her comedian pals including Tommy Tiernan, Dara O'Briain and Ardal O'Hanlon for a massive comedy gig in the 3Arena on St Patrick's Day.

A Comic Relief event is being organised for the 3Arena on St Patrick’s Day partly to help the plight of refugees
A Comic Relief event is being organised for the 3Arena on St Patrick’s Day partly to help the plight of refugees

Everyone taking part in Paddy's Night in support of Comic Relief is giving their time free of charge with the proceeds divided equally between Irish and international charities.

The acts, along with producer Darren Smith of Kite Entertainment, are spearheading the fundraiser, and Deidre added: "Everybody was talking about the break-up of the Calais camp and everyone was consumed by it and I was talking to Darren about it and I said, 'Darren, we've got to do something.'

"And he said, 'I've been trying to get a Comic Relief event in Ireland off the ground for years.'

"I think the recession really did put the kibosh on so many things like that so I said, 'Great, I'll help you. I'll ask the comics' because obviously that was something I could do and it wasn't something that was difficult for me to do."

Passion

She said she was bowled over by the reaction to her "passion project" as so many people were keen to get involved, with 14 comics now on the bill.

She said: "Nobody turned me down. Some people weren't available. It's a Friday night so that is a busy night in any comic's diary so it's a big ask.

"I actually thought I'd have more people unavailable on the night so when I got Tommy and Dara and Ardal on board for the event I knew I was up and running."

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