Monday, 6 January 2014


You know how it is when you really love someone, except for that one particular thing they do that drives you crazy? Well, I love Ireland and the Irish, but last year, racist incidents rose by a staggering 85% in this country. In the first 11 months of 2013, 142 racist incidents were reported, compared with 77 over the same period the previous year.
History shows us that poverty breeds racism, so it’s no surprise that all over the Eurozone, economically broken and bailed-out nations are breeding fascism. As long ago as October 2012 this colyoom was reporting on the rise of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, and since then parties of the extreme Right have made significant electoral progress in France, Spain and Portugal.
However, I really don’t think the Irish are about to march through the streets of their home towns in fascist uniforms. You’re far too sensible to do that, but not yet all wise enough to see, welcome and enjoy the benefits of a multi-cultural society.
My dream for 2014 is to see a change in you, yes you out there, the average Irish person, who’s not particularly fussed either way about immigration, racism and the like. Sure, aren’t you very tolerant?
The Irish are fond of saying they’re very tolerant, but tolerance is no good. My dream is that you’ll move from tolerance towards acceptance, and then on to appreciation and enjoyment. I know it’s a long shot, but having been brought up in a fantastically diverse society, I learned early to love variety.
Tolerance holds an inherent feeling of begrudgery; that something is being ‘put up with’. When you accept and embrace the reality of Ireland as a multi-ethnic society, you will come to love it in an entirely new way. Change is not always for the worse. Acceptance will bring the joy of new foods, music, fashions, festivals, humour and beauty, in all its human forms.
To be fair to you, the Irish have seen a sizeable increase in immigration in the last 20 years, but that’s because up until then, you were all white and nearly all Catholic. The reason you all felt so outraged by the Rev. Ian Paisley’s description of the Republic as a mono-cultural mono-ethnic nation was because it was true; hard to swallow, like so many uncomfortable truths.
Wiping out racism and homophobia in your domestic society is a strange process, in that it works only from the top down. Societal change usually grows from the ground upwards. A group of people start thinking differently, more join in, until the level of public opinion behind the movement becomes so large, politicians are forced to respond with legislation.
Sadly, bigotry is a fond and familiar choice made by humanity. During hard times it provides someone to blame and when the money is flowing it offers opportunity to create economic apartheids between the super-rich and minimum wagers.
People won’t stop being racist until they know it’s simply not acceptable. I saw the process happen in my native England. We went from laughing at dodgy racist TV sit-coms like ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ in the 1970s to a society where anybody acting in an overtly racist fashion is treated like a social pariah.
Any revolutionary journey will have overspills, where ideas flow further than reason, so while the excesses of political correctness are plainly absurd, I’ll happily suffer them as a price worth paying, in return for a respectful society, appreciative of all of its members.
How did the UK achieve such a massive change in attitudes over the course of a single generation? Successive governments passed and then fully imposed legislation that punished, fined and imprisoned those who acted in a racist manner. When your mate’s gone down for a 6 month stretch because he was chanting racist slogans at a rally, you get the picture pretty quickly.
So the Irish government have to legislate more clearly and vehemently against workplace racism, hate-crimes and incitement to racial hatred. Then, even more importantly, the Gardai and the legal system have to impose those laws.
I’d hate to be black in today’s Ireland. The ignorance I’d have to put up with on a daily basis has my head spinning. Truth be told, my gut is gripped by the utter hypocrisy of the notion of Irish racism. Ever since moving here 21 years ago, I have been constantly bombarded by tales of woe concerning the travails of Irish immigrants in London in the 1950s, of signs declaring ‘No Irish Need Apply’.
Even more galling in the face of Irish racism, we still see regularly on the news today’s Irish politicians lobbying President Obama to allow an armistice to illegal Irish immigrants in the USA. As a nation with a culture of economic emigration in times of poverty, you certainly are quick to forget how it feels to be a long way from your native country.
Two wholly separate issues are being addressed under the single banner of immigration. One concerns those who live here already; the other those who wish to. As a sovereign nation it is within your rights (EU permitting!) to tighten up your borders and control numbers. However, those who already live here deserve nothing but complete and utter acceptance. They are no different to your mate who’s working in Boston. They deserve to be accepted, embraced and understood.
So often those who whinge that Daily Mail refrain 'Ireland’s only a small country' are the first to remind this Englishman that before the famine there were over 8 million living here. So please, no more nonsense about immigration. Clearly there’s room for everyone.
Last year we had The Gathering, an Irish-centred hoohaah that brought in the moolar. Let’s make 2014 the year of The Acceptance. All it takes is a little empathy. Come on the Irish! I know it can happen!

©Charlie Adley

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