18 September 2009

Warning over racism in referendum debate

Canon Patrick Comerford (left) with his cousin, Fr Bernard Cushen, parish priest of Ramsgrange, at the Palatine Service in St Mary’s Church, Old Ross, Co. Wexford

The current [18 September 2009] edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette carries the following report on its back page (page 16]:

Fears about racism becoming one of the factors in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were expressed at a special service to mark the tercentenary of the arrival of the Palatine refugees in Ireland. Canon Patrick Comerford said: “I am not going to dare suggest how anyone should vote in the Lisbon referendum. But I am already worried about the type of nationalism and exclusivism that has found voice in the referendum campaign.”

Canon Comerford, who is Director of Spiritual Formation in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, was preaching at a special service in St Mary’s Church, Old Ross, Co Wexford, on 9th September the mark the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first German-speaking Lutheran refugees from the Rhineland Palatinate in Ireland in September 1709.

He added: “I am worried too that as unemployment continues to rise in Ireland, more and more of the blame for unemployment will be placed on the new immigrants and arrivals, on the stranger in our midst, rather than on our political and economic decision-makers who have created the mess we are in today.”

Referring to the Palatines, who were German-speaking refugees who settled in south Co Wexford, he said: “If we want to take pride in the Palatines who settled among us 300 years ago, then the best way to express pride in them and the welcome they received is to ensure that the Poles and the Romanians, the Chinese and the Roma, the families from the Baltic and Nigeria, the new people who have arrived among us, whether it is for social, religious or political reasons, do not become victims, are not discriminated against.”

“If we want to take pride in the Palatines who settled among us 300 years ago and the welcome they received, then we must commit ourselves anew to the ideal, the achievable ideal, that no-one in Europe ever again should be a refugee for religious, ethnic, linguistic or social reasons,” he said.

The service was conducted by the Revd Lynne Rodgers, priest-in-charge of New Ross, with the Rervd Jenny Crowley also taking part. The service was also addressed by the localo historian, Bernard Browne, and the cultural attaché of the German Embassy, Dublin.

Update 3 October 2009:

A similar report and photograph are published in the October edition of the
Diocesan Magazine (Diocese of Cashel and Ossory).

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