C: Houses of the Oireachtas

Donnelly: Some migrants fear jab out of mistrust of the State

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that some migrants fear vaccination because they have had “very, very bad experiences” with the State in their own country.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk this Thursday, Donnelly expressed sympathy at the fact that some migrants have fear of the vaccine because they mistrust the State in general.

“The point I’m trying to make, Pat, is that there are people with particular concerns,” he said.

“We know, for example, that there are people from particular nationalities, where they’ve had very, very bad experiences with their governments over many years and there’s a lot of mistrust.”

He went on to say that this demonstrated the need for the government to “reach out” to these individuals and try to put their minds at ease.

Now of course, everyone has a right (and some might even argue a duty) to mistrust the government, no matter what country they’re in. The state, while necessary, is generally only kept in check from excessive power by a vigilant population.

But note the kid gloves with which the Minister treats foreign nationals on this issue compared to his own citizens.

Migrants who fear the government are to be “reached out” to and “engaged with,” he says, describing how the government is getting interpreters to gently explain to these immigrants that they have nothing to fear from the vaccine.

Compare that to his demonisation of those who are Irish and unvaccinated, scapegoating them for the fact that ICU units in children’s hospitals are filling up.

“Your decision to not get vaccinated is helping this virus continue to spread…we’re having to cancel operations for children, for adults, in need of urgent hospital treatment and procedures,” he said.

In other words, the subtext: “You selfish monsters are risking children’s health.” Nothing but judgement, hectoring and scorn.

To make matters worse, his assertion that the unvaccinated are causing pressure on children’s hospitals in the health service he runs isn’t even accurate, as the CEO of Children’s Health Ireland recently admitted. In fact, CHI says the culprit is Donnelly’s government lockdown which caused a spike in RSV infections instead.

Yet he’s happy to level this accusation at the unvaccinated population to obfuscate his own government’s culpability.

The part that seems to have gone completely over Donnelly’s head is that you don’t have to be a migrant to fear and mistrust your own government. There is a cohort of people in Irish society who have a wariness of establishment parties like Donnelly’s and State power more broadly – a wariness which has been well earned.

Granted, the Irish government in 2021 is not as totalitarian as the State in, say, North Korea, or Cuba. But saying your government is marginally more trustworthy than a Cold War regime from behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe isn’t exactly a high bar or an impressive achievement.

If you’re a person of faith, for example, you’ve seen your constitutional religious rights trampled by the state, with Gardaí even being deployed to crash church services. Clergy were threatened with arrest for saying Mass as a penal provision – something which Donnelly insisted to the Dáil would never happen.

If you’re a business owner, you’ve seen the government send police down to your private workplace to enforce the sale of €9 substantial meals or threaten you with prosecution, and other such laughably stupid regulations.

For months at a time they confined every man, woman and child to their home, virtually under house arrest. They banned peaceful protests against their policies, while allowing socialist abortion demos to go ahead.

This is to make no mention of the broken promises, where politicians insisted in no uncertain terms that the vaccine passport would only be in place for “a few weeks,” in the words of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, only to be extended to February of 2022 at least (and who knows how long after that).

“Two weeks to stop the spread” turned into the longest and most draconian lockdown in the EU according to Oxford University. They even told nurses they wouldn’t force them to get vaccinated, and then changed their mind.

Now, after smashing the economy and the health service repeatedly with a sledgehammer, the government are blaming the tiny minority of the population who have decided of their own free will, for whatever reason, not to receive the jab.

When you say you “trust” somebody, you’re saying you believe what they say. To be trustworthy is to keep your promises and to behave in an upfront and reliable way. This is the furthest thing from the Irish government’s conduct, and many hundreds of thousands of Irish people see it clearly.

You don’t have to come from a land beyond the wave to find the government suspect. What’s astonishing is not that some people in Ireland don’t trust the state, but that so many still do.

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