Racism in Ireland more obvious than ever

By Christine O’Mahony

As somebody who is Black and used to work in a college, I have seen first hand the racism directed towards Black people. I have seen security guards break up groups of Black friends due to their own prejudice and I have seen lecturers blog and tweet about the Black community and facing no repercussions. There also seems to be an obsession with filming Black people hanging out and claiming it is “gang activity”.  Meanwhile, the Kinahans and other names in crime across the country are given a form of celebrity status. Go to the comment section about a Black person and you will see vile racist abuse, go to the comment section about Gerry the Hutch, and you will see people praising him and hoping that he enjoys his time in Spain.

Racism is prejudice, discrimination or antagonism by an individual, community or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised. Like most countries, racism is present in Ireland. Although Ireland was once colonised by British forces, our tragic history which led to forced immigration, has done little to change the attitude of those who are racist towards refugees and asylum seekers. 

Refugees and asylum seekers are not the only marginalised group in Ireland that are victims. The Irish Travelling and Roma Community have also suffered. As Irish Traveller Activist, Rose Marie Maughan once said, “racism against the Travelling Community, seems to be the only acceptable racism in Ireland”. In many ways, Maughan is correct. There have been talks of Fine Gael Ministers introducing hate crime legislation that also covers hate speech, but it is quite  ironic, given that some in their own party denied Travellers access to Traveller accommodation. 

Painting every Traveller under the same brush has led to this institutional racism not only in Ireland, but also in the UK, a Labour politician, Charlotte Nichols, who claimed she was an “ally” to the Traveller and Roma community, pledged that she wanted Traveller incursions if people kept supporting her. You wouldn’t dream of saying that about any other community. I always thought, in this day and age, that those who included blatant racism on their campaign materials, must belong to the far right. I was wrong. 

Speaking of institutional racism, that is essentially what the direct provision system is for asylum seekers. It has been described as “state sanctioned child poverty and exclusion” and many experts believe that the system is a complete violation of human rights. The government has always stood over the direct provision system and were only convinced to move towards ending it when they went into coalition with the Green Party. However, before we think of the Green Party as saviours, it is currently Green Party policy that is leading to hundreds of asylum seekers becoming homeless as there is no room for asylum seekers who are Black and Brown as they have to accommodate Ukrainians. The government from the get-go inadvertently created this divide and conquer among two sets of refugees. 

The far right does exist in Ireland. The government selfishly did not treat them as a threat, as they didn’t think they would win any elections. However, victims of their abuse can see that they don’t need a seat in government to be abusive. Not only do they target asylum seekers, but they also target the LGBT+ community, women, the disabled community, those that identify as left and politicians. For example, LGBT+ activist, Izzy Kamikaze, was hit on the head by a pole by a National Party member, leading to a head injury, secondly, Sinn Féin TD, Martin Kenny, found his car burnt by far right members, because he supported refugees, and thirdly a direct provision centre was set on fire by a far right member as it was reported that it would be housing asylum seekers. They have managed to radicalise local ordinary people to support their cause in opposing refugees and asylum seekers, as seen in East Wall, Ballymun, Navan and Mullingar. 

With a triple hit of the cost of living, housing, and homeless crisis all at once, there has been a need for some to find a group to blame it on. Mix in an abundance of misinformation online, a government who says they will do something about it without actually doing, and an influx of Ukraine refugees fleeing a war, what you have is a recipe for racism. All they have to do is forget to mention the 1.4 million Irish living abroad and the 50 million with Irish ancestry.

The far right have tried to convince everyone that any refugee residing in Ireland is a danger to friends and family. I have unfortunately seen ordinary locals repeating these same lies without any proof. Like Travellers, if somebody in the asylum seeker/refugee community does something wrong, it means that everyone gets painted under the same brush.

Racism in Ireland is not just online cyberbullying, it is verbal, violent, institutional and dangerous. Many Irish can be ignorant of the fact that racism is ripe in their own country. In Ireland we like to compare ourselves to other countries, but by minimising the racism that victims face in Ireland, by comparing it to big and powerful countries like the USA, it is not helping at all to solve the racism issues in Ireland. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about being shot if we ring the doorbell of a Conservative Republican here in Ireland, but People of Colour have had to move their homes due to rocks being thrown at them, racist graffiti, protests, violence abuse and threatening letters. 

It will take a while before we can really say that Ireland as a whole, has a “cead mile fáilte” attitude. Luckily the majority are on the side of diversity and an Ireland for All, as seen in the recent protest in Dublin. However, the far right are slowly radicalising the supportive base and we need to ensure that we counter their misinformation and lies. 

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