Republican News · Thursday 14 December 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Incinerator by the back door

The BSE crisis in the beef market is sorely troubling EU ministers, but the Dublin government has not been slow to use the opportunity. Far from worrying about collapse in beef prices or Irish beef exports markets, the government has seen the panic as a heaven-sent occasion to argue the case for incineration.

How are we to get rid of the BSE herds, or the bone meal, through which animals are fed to other animals, they argue, if it's not through incineration?

Come to think of it, how do we get rid of animals with brucellosis, with TB, or humans for that matter, with TB or HIV or AIDS? We bury them normally. In the case of animals, we bury them sometimes in lime.

The scientific basis for using BSE, or scrapie, or whatever other animal infections we have about us as argument for incineration is in the realms of fantasy. There is very little knowledge about any of these things.

No one knows the effects of the incineration of infected carcasses, and what happens to BSE under high temperature. There is even less established knowledge about CJD and its alleged connection with BSE, or scrapie for that matter, or how BSE can overcome the extraordinary immunological protection around the brain from ingesting BSE meat, but not, it seems, infect through aerosol, the slaughterhouse people that work with BSE infected animals, but amongst whom there has not been a case of CJD infection. There is no scientific evidence establishing that BSE is an infectious disease.

At the end of the day, BSE makes an extremely poor case for introducing incinerators, which are known to produce the most poisonous chemical known to man, namely dioxins.

Stalag refugee

Above is a refugee encampment of 100 caravans, in an enclosed compound, with wire fence, security guards controlling access to the site. 280 refugees have been `dispersed' to this `concentrated holding site' in Athlone over the past few months. There are more to come.

Photographs are not allowed. Entry to the compound is restricted. A security guard, under the watch of cameras, takes detail of all visitors, who are then escorted round the corner to a small parking site for cars.

No refugee is allowed to bring visitors to their caravan. Neither priests nor doctors are allowed into the refugees' quarters. The caravans are stacked up a metre or two apart.

When refugees leave the site they are questioned about where they are going and what time they will be back.

There are no services provided at the site except the social service which comes along with the 15 a week payment for adults and 7.50 per child, which has to meet all their needs, bar food and accommodation. A canteen provides their food, which some describe as unsuitable and uneateable. There are no language classes, welfare consultations, legal advisors, translators, or counselling services available. There are no sports, entertainment or leisure activities. Children under five have no schooling provided.

These are skilled people, forced into idleness. There are engineers, architects, journalists, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers and many other professions amongst them. They are not allowed to work.

They either remain all day enclosed in their caravan or they walk the streets and shopping centre, with no money to buy anything, few people to give them a kindly glance. They are ostracised, excluded, isolated. As one refugee said, not wishing to give her name, ``It is a concentration camp of the 21st century. It's frightening.''

Is this Minister John O'Donoghue's method of building intercultural relations, or creating a non-racist society?

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