On April 18th Clare Daly highlight the hypocritical actions of the government where they had imposed a severe lockdown everyone and closed many businesses because of their concern to stop the spread of Covid. Yet in the middle of all this they flew in hundreds of workers from Bulgaria to work for a company that has had very favourable treatment from Fine Gael. Her statement appeared on her facebook page and received many comments. The statement in presented in full here and an attempt is to made to reconcile the what is going on.
Clare Daly Statement on April 18th
The arrival of hundreds of workers from Bulgaria to pick fruit for Keelings has focused much needed attention on the activities of this company which has long been the recipient of favourable treatment by Irish state authorities.
This multi-million euro agri-business is on an industrial scale, built off the backs of vulnerable migrant workers. For years questions have been asked around the recruitment of these workers, the nature of their contracts, and the accommodation they are placed in.
Now in the midst of a global pandemic, with international travel virtually at a standstill and airports empty, they charter a plane to bring hundreds of workers thousands of kilometres to pick their produce, and Ryanair happily oblige. Transporting hundreds of people across Europe in cramped, pressurized cabins, with recycled air, risks the health of the Keelings workers and the Ryanair staff, and ultimately the wider public.
This is the story and it needs serious investigation.
It is really unfortunate that it has been hijacked by racist elements trying to blame the workers and stir up hate. In standing firm against racists we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be silenced and prevented from examining the behaviour of this company. Solidarity with these workers is the best way to combat racism against them. I know many Keelings workers over the years. The picture circulating on social media showing them waiting for the bus was taken last year just outside my estate and is a very familiar image for Swords residents. It is a fact that the conditions that these workers face are not conducive to social distancing or any of the other necessary measures to protect their health or that of others. Why is Keelings allowed to ignore rules that everyone else is supposed to abide by?
Many businesses are going to go to the wall in this crisis. Many employers would love to keep their companies open but they can’t and they don’t. Movement is monitored and curtailed, with the Gardai on the streets. You cannot travel beyond 2 km except for a very limited number of reasons, one of which is if your work is essential and cannot be done from home.
So how has this been allowed to happen? Keelings have argued that it is no big deal, that their work is essential and they couldn’t get any workers in Ireland. But every other farmer and agri-producer is in the same boat. What are all the rest of them doing? Did Keelings sit down with the health
authorities and ask their advice on how their crops could be harvested and public health protected? Why were there are no public calls and notices locally asking for help and assistance? With thousands of workers stuck in their homes under lockdown within a 2 km radius surely a local task force could have been assembled? Putting a notice on your website in the midst of a shutdown saying that you are hiring is not exactly a serious effort to employ people. In fact Keelings have also argued that these workers were “horticultural specialists“ whose skill set was not available locally. This is also a nonsense. It smacks of a prepared PR response to the questions that they knew would be asked.
It is clear that this company was operating along the lines of business as usual when most other companies are not allowed that privilege. The issue is whether any government department was aware of this and did they approve this move? Why were other options not explored? If they were not aware then what are they going to do about it now?
For years I have seen this company being treated differently. On many occasions over the decades when I was a member of Fingal County Council, land zonings were changed in Development Plans for Keelings, even designating special permission to allow them to accommodate workers onsite in temporary accommodation although it was right beside Swords with loads of housing at the time.
The fact that Keelings is now in the spotlight is a long overdue opportunity for a serious investigation into how they conduct their business and how they treat their workers. The next government must ensure that proper regulation is enacted and enforced to protect migrant workers from ruthless super-exploitation.
Statement on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClareDalyMEP/posts/3636204013062172
There are many valid and good points here but the issue is quite clear. The governement are and have been under huge international pressure to impose the lockdown. People tend to forget this is not just a national thing. It is global. We always follow the lead of other bigger countries. Much of the pressure has come from the WHO although it is strange that such an organisation has suddenly so much power. However the government also know that probably most people have already been exposed to the virus and that it is no more deadlier than the flu. The numbers of deaths bear this out and have been proven else where. In fact the whole lockdown is completely pointless and uneccesary. See for example these stories.
So if this risk is actually extremely low, then there is no problem with several hundred people flying in the same plane. We all did it up to a few weeks ago.
The next issue is why? In the carnage after the current economic suicide it will be predominately small businesses that will go bust because of cash flow, less resources and they will not get the same bailouts as the big firms.
This in fact applies also to the agricultural sector. It will be small farmers crushed and many will probably in the medium term end up selling their land as they will be in debt,to banks. This land will end up in the hands of the bigger corporate agri-busineses. We saw examples of this in Strokestown as a result of the last crisis. This is the whole point of the lockdown everywhere. A transfer of assets and wealth into the hands of the bigger firms. In the case of Ireland, Keelings is simply the favoured firm and obviously have the backing of the government. In the US much of the farming land is owned by agri-business. This is to be rolled out during and after this lockdown, probably Europe wide. This is the new model.
So we have those on the right tend to get focused on the racial aspects and those on the Left with the concerns for the workers which of course are complely legitimate but few are looking at the big picture and linking it with the overall situation and working out an explanation which is rational.Whoever and whatever group has been behind the whole global pressure to impose this lockdown is running rings around the Right and the Left while they focus on the minutiae and miss the picture. There have been a few exceptions to those who do see it.
The overall tone is that the actions of the government are irrational. They are only irrational if you buy into the virus scare. If you don't, and realize the government don't then things become a lot clearer and it also shows that the goverement is just acting in the way they always did. The real absurd notion is that this lockdown is done because they care.