By ROISIN DE ROSA
They came in their hundreds. There were the anti bin charge protestors. There were the little children from Drogheda, who, amongst so many in the state, want a decent school. There were the people who wanted Ireland to have no part in the warmongering that is happening around the world. There were the people who were abused as children in state and Church run institutions, who have been treated with disdain and contempt by the government, which wants to talk of `sample cases' in place of justice and full disclosure of the terrible things that happened to these people as children when they were `sentenced' to be incarcerated.
And also among the many hundreds of people who came to Leinster House yesterday to greet the TDs as they reassembled were hundreds of parents whose children have Irish passports, and yet who are all facing deportation, because the government has not granted residency to their parents.
There are an estimated 11,000 children of Irish nationality whose parents are facing deportation because they have not been granted residency. The only way these children can remain with their families is to be driven into exile, to another country, in which they become, in effect, stateless persons.
A number of TDs, supporters and activists opposing the racist behaviour of government towards its citizens addressed the protest, which was led by Residents Against Racism, on behalf of many communities including the Russian, the Georgian, the Ukrainian, the Belorussian, the Moldovian, the Nigerian and the Romanian.
These communities came to Leinster House to deliver a letter, together, to Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, who did not come to the door of Leinster House to greet these people for whom he is the cause of such terrible anxiety, fear and unhappiness, as they wait to hear if they are granted the right to remain here with their children.
In their letter they said: ``We are writing to ask for a moratorium on the deportation of Irish citizen children and to appeal for a humane attitude and understanding.
``We are ordinary people trying to make a living in Ireland. We are all parents of little Irish citizens who want them to grow up and become builders, poets, pilots, singers, scientists and taxi drivers. Our children speak as Gaeilge, play hurling and dance Irish dances.
``Some of our applications for residency were submitted as along ago as autumn 2001 and the parents concerned may have been in Ireland for a considerable period before this. Irish children have parents who have been denied the right to work, have been forced to become dependent on the State and have been living in a climate of uncertainty, unsure as to whether or not they will be able to continue their lives in Ireland.
``You Minister, have made it clear that the government will insist that deported non-nationals take their children with them. Will the government also ensure that the best interests and the welfare of the child are at the heart of decisions?
``Will the state honour its obligations to its child citizens in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child a party of which Ireland is?
``Who will tell us how Ukrainian asylum seekers can obtain a visa for their Irish citizen child when there is no Ukrainian consulate in Ireland?
``Who will advise us where Kenyan immigrants can find money to pay the entrance fee for their `foreign' child in their home country?
``Who will explain to Belorussian parents what to do with their child's Irish passport if there is no dual citizenship allowed in Belarus?''
And, the letter ends: ``Dear Minister, we want you to know we are not freeloaders and spongers. We are programmers, chefs, factory workers, artists and students. We are people with university degrees in medicine, arts, engineering and science. Dear Minister, we ask you to declare a moratorium on deportation of Irish citizen children and their non-national parents.''
Just one more injustice that people came to protest at the cattle corral erected for their reception outside Leinster House on Tuesday. Just another feather in MacDowell's cap. Just another affront to people's human rights. Just another indignity, another humiliation in an Ireland of unequals, still failing to `cherish all the children of the nation equally'.