Cannon blasted over ‘no show’ at Gort undocumented event

Selfie time....participants at the launch of 'Gort is My Home'.

Minister Ciaran Cannon was blasted for his ‘no show’ at a Gort event for undocumented which was launched last Sunday, International Human Rights Day.

The Galway East Fine Gael TD, who is Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, was expected to attend an event organised by Gort Justice for the Undocumented.

The group was launching a report ‘Gort is my home’, research highlighting the contribution the undocumented make to the South Galway town.

According to organisers, Minister Cannon’s office had accepted the invitation but did not show up to the event, which was attended by around 300 people at Gort Town Hall on Church Street. They say he did not send apologies either, which delayed the event by 30 minutes.

“We are livid that the Minister with responsibility for Diaspora and International Development didn’t turn up. Ciaran Cannon was a no show. There was no show, no apologies, no nothing. It delayed the event by half an hour. Eighteen people had travelled down from Dublin for the occasion and given the road conditions they had to leave early. Sadly, the late start meant that their contribution to the event was curtailed.

“We were bitterly disappointed that Minister Ciaran Cannon did not attend on International Day of Human Rights. Messages of distress were received when it was highlighted that the Minister had posted photos of a winter wonderland in Kiltullagh to Facebook the same day and yet failed to attend or contact us,” said Dr Margaret Brehony, lead researcher of the report. Organisers had officially invited the Minister through the proper channels, and had also cleared the correct protocol for ministerial visits.

Annie Rosario, co-ordinator at Gort Resource Centre, said: “It was upsetting that Ciaran Cannon didn’t come to the event, especially given that the undocumented would form part of his brief. People were upset; it was disappointing.”

Clifden-based Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, Eileen Mannion (FG), didn’t make it either, due to the snow threat but had phoned ahead to give her apologies.

Galway East TD and Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Children, Anne Rabbitte, gave a rousing speech at the event, which was also attended by Fine Gael County Councillor, Joe Byrne.

In her speech, Deputy Rabbitte noted that there were no votes to be gained from supporting the undocumented issue, but it was the right thing to do. She advocated a system of regularisation of the undocumented in Ireland, and highlighted the need for cross-party support because it was ethically and morally the right thing to do, but also would bring favourable economic benefits.

Dr Kathy Reilly of the NUIG Geography Department offciially launched the research.

The launch was described as a “moving” and “celebratory” event, which highlighted the contribution made and that could be made by the Brazilian Community here in Gort.

It also underlined the unequal and vulnerable circumstances that are felt by many on a daily basis while living in the shadows in Gort.

The Gort Justice for Undocumented Group have called for a fair and humane response to immigrants who are living in our communities. They want the government to introduce a regularisation scheme for undocumented workers and their families, and an end to Direct Provision and fair treatment for people who are seeking asylum or refuge in Ireland. They say they also support the Irish governments call for an amnesty for undocumented Irish emigrants in the US.

Gort was once home to 1,000 Brazilians, many recruited by Sean Duffy’s meat plant in better economic times. When the factory closed in 2010 and work permits expired, there was no obligation on the employer to fly former staff home.

The Portuguese speakers had married, started families, put down roots. It is estimated there are 300-400 Brazilians still living in Gort, who are invisible and living in fear of deportation.