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Comparisons with the Syrian Refugees and the Irish from generations ago made for emotional viewing last night

Back at the beginning of the year people in Ireland were informed that the first of 240 Syrian refugees were to arrive in March in Ballaghaderreen, a small town in Co Roscommon.

As the media caught hold of the story it was received by the public in two ways, some voiced their concerns and criticisms of the decision due to in their own words the lack of planning. While others signed up at a local meeting early in the year with their details and of how they thought they could offer to volunteer.

Many social media campaigns generated plenty of attention with donations coming in from all over the country to help the people who had fled their home country torn apart by war.

Last night TV3 aired their own documentary Ireland’s Refugee Hotel: True Lives, which was co-produced with the BBC. It followed the lives of those who had arrived from Syria and also the people of the town. The documentary told the story of how the Syrians found settling into the community since their arrival.

Producers also spoke with members of the local community many of which came out in huge numbers to not just lend a hand but also to welcome the refugees to their hometown. There was also interviews with those who were worried about their arrival.

The star of the documentary was Mary Gallagher, who runs a local clothes shop. She was very vocal with her views of the new arrivals, comparing their plight to that Irish people endured many generations ago.

It was Mary’s comments on the Famine and coffin ships that really brought home to most not just here in Ireland but also further afield just what these poor people have suffered just to make it to Ireland.

Media outlets throughout the world have a lot to answer for when you hear some of the responses online to the Syrians arrival, not just here but to any other country.

Some have a complete misconception when it comes to most topics in the news today and the Syrians are top of the list. This idea by a worrying amount of the public is these people of Syria have all left “to come here to receive benefits” is so ridiculous it’s almost funny.

These people aren’t traveling across the world leaving all their belongings and in some cases family members behind to come here to avail of our €188 a week social welfare and if you genuinely believe that then you need to educate yourself.

The documentary is a must watch for all, from the devastating stories of young children losing parents to those very same children now involved with the local GAA club it really is a roller coaster of emotion.

Ireland’s Refugee Hotel: True Lives is a co-production between TV3 and BBC1, made by independent production company Films of Record. Aired on TV3 last night and is available on the TV3 Player.

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About Rachel Lynch

Rachel Lynch
Journalist with InTallaght.

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