Clonmel-born Chernobyl Childrens International founder Adi Roche has appealed to the people of her native county and Ireland to welcome those fleeing war torn Syria, and has pledged to take in a refugee family into her own home.
Like so many across the country, she was deeply moved and shocked by the tragic image of three year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi’s body found washed up on a Turkish beach last week after the boat carrying his family to the Greek coast capsized.
Ms Roche welcomed the statements in recent days from Pope Francis and Bishop of Elphin Most Rev. Kevin Doran calling on every parish to welcome refugees and she echoed their appeals.
She also praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the “great moral fibre” and “leadership” she has shown in declaring her country will welcome a huge number of these refugees.
“It was really refreshing to hear Pope Francis’ wonderful speech. He has really put his finger on the pulse and has been listening. I think it shows great leadership is coming from the Vatican and to see that endorsed by Bishop Doran is just wonderful.”
She said that up to recent days she was “embarrassed” by Ireland’s response to the refugee crisis on the EU’s borders.
The number of refugees the government was initially prepared to take was embarrassingly low and she has been heartened that it is now planning to accept a much higher number. Ms Roche urged the people of Ireland to show their moral fibre and open their hearts and extend a Cead Mile Failte to these refugees. “Let us be a shining example from Europe to offer our hearts and homes,” she said.
“These are people looking for sanctuary and shelter. These people don’t want to be leaving their home counties; that is a fact. They are coming because of war and conflict and their first priority will be to return to their own country (when the war ends).
“I think it’s important that we humanise these people and get away from being intellectual about this and playing the numbers game and talking about stepping up numbers over time. These people don’t have the luxury of time; they are dying.”
She argued that Ireland has the economic capacity to accept these refugees and pointed out that accommodating them won’t cost this country a lot of money as funds and support will come from bodies like the UN.
She revealed that she and her husband have decided to accept a refugee family into their home and are hoping that family, friends and neighbours will help them with the task.
In relation to Independent TD Mattie McGrath’s call for the Government to set up a migrant support programme that would allow volunteer families to accommodate refugees, she said she would be “absolutely honoured and privileged” to give the Government any advice and help she could in relation to rolling out any refugee programme.
She has over two decades of experience and expertise as leader of the Chernobyl Childrens International charity that has brought more than 40,0000 children to Ireland from regions affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.