Friday 15 February 2019

'His conduct has been reprehensible' - call for Fourth of July boycott

Senator Aodhan O Riordain
Senator Aodhan O Riordain

A labour politician is standing by his call for a boycott of a US Independence Day party in Dublin to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant parents from their children at the border.

US ambassador Reece Smyth plans to host a party at the ambassador's residence in the Phoenix Park on July 3, an event which has been named United We Rock.

Invitations to the event were sent out to members of the Dail and Seanad in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Labour Party senator Aodhan O Riordain held a briefing appealing to those invited to boycott the event, which he said would be a "small but significant gesture".

The briefing came shortly before US President Donald Trump dramatically issued an executive order calling for families to be kept together.

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children had been separated from parents at the US southern border during a six-week period in April and May, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Given this, Mr O Riordain had said it would be "unthinkable" for Irish politicians and diplomats to "drink glasses of champagne and eat cocktail sausages" and celebrate the country's national holiday.

And last night he stood by his call.


"I note what the president has done [in issuing the executive order], but his conduct in the last number of weeks and the last number of days has been reprehensible.

"Attending the Fourth of July reception in the current circumstances should be unthinkable for any Irish politician," he said.

He was joined in his call by immigration lawyer Fiona McEntee, who described the separation of families at the border as a "new low" for the Trump administration.

Ms McEntee has been practising immigration law in the US for more than 10 years, and was based in Chicago's O'Hare Airport for six months after the president's inauguration, where she worked assisting detainees.

"What is happening is a new level of low," she said. "We are hearing direct reports of families being separated.

"These are families seeking asylum - many of them have travelled for upward of a month with their children and they are being separated at the border.

"We are hearing reports that there are children in cages, they are being detained away from their parents. As a mother, as an Irish citizen, as a naturalised US citizen, as an immigration attorney, I just can't sit by and say nothing.


"We have a duty to speak out and use our voice. I don't know how anyone could attend a reception in the US Embassy and drink to United We Rock knowing what is happening to these poor children."

She said attending the event would be tantamount to celebrating a policy of "ripping children apart from their parents".

Independent senator Billy Lawless, who has worked extensively with undocumented Irish in America, has also described the latest policy as a "new low".

"This is wrong and it should not be what the United States is about," he said.

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