The Lord Mayor of Dublin speaks openly about racism in Ireland

Racism is a real issue in the daily lives of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, with more arriving as the days unfold, it will only escalate. According to a recent report, Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey Being Black in the EU, by Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Ireland is the second most racist country in the EU.

It’s not just the public who are voicing these loud opinions, more recent verbal spats by TD’s and political candidate hopefuls, has also hit the news. If we are to show by example, what example is this?

No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

It wasn’t that long ago that signs like this were posted in Britain. As the Irish dispersed around the world for work, some were met with racism themselves.

Have we forgotten? Are we no longer the land of a thousand welcomes?

Over the years, young hopefuls studied in the Royal College of Surgeons, potential doctors and medical professionals. They came, they went. Now with the influx of bulletin news announced refugees and asylum seekers, the barriers are up, the hurtful words are spoken. After all, ‘What about our own?’

Speaking to Hazel Chu, Dublin City Councillor and Green Party Cathaoirleach, chairperson, and now Lord Mayor of Dublin, she said “Her parents were migrants from Hong Kong, they met over here in Dublin over 40 years ago. She was born and raised in Dublin, going on to study at Kings Inn, becoming one of the first barristers from a Chinese background.

Working for a non-profit, later moving overseas to work in New York, Australia and China, she eventually took a role in the corporate world back in Ireland, to “literally pay her mortgage.”

The former head of communications for Diageo in Ireland, she ran the election campaign for her partner in 2014, which led her into the world of politics. The Green party views were aligned with her thoughts on climate change and social justice. Moving up in the ranks to Chairperson, she is now a Dublin City Councillor, working with the department of justice on hate speech and hate crimes.

Discussing the recent EU report, “Racism is there, it’s prevalent, but only felt by the people who suffer it, people are directly targeted. In 2007 we had the highest amount of immigration, but we also had a thriving economy, there weren’t any issues. There was no discussion about how certain people shouldn’t be allowed in the country, or be vetted, being moved into a village under the direct provision. It’s easy to blame someone that looks different; it’s easier to use them as a scapegoat.

I’m not surprised at the results from the report; ranking second is really awful to see. When you look at how diverse Dublin is, there are still no integration programmes, there’s no support system, it’s all down to the support of communities and volunteers.”

Céad míle fáilte, the land of a thousand welcomes, has turned into ‘no room at the inn’.

“There’s a very loud minority, this is what happened with Sweden. They had a very diverse community, very welcoming to new people. There are smaller political parties springing up here in Ireland, actively recruiting on the basis, if you don’t like anyone of different colour, Ireland should be for the Irish. So if you don’t want great replacement, then you should join us.

They are selling their ideas and convincing people that you have no jobs, there are so many homeless here, all because of the migrants.”

What can we do, what needs to be done?

“What we need to start doing is have a proper conversation about racism. In the United States, about five years ago, former President Obama rolled a programme called White House Conversations, he requested each state within the US to host a conversation about race. Bringing all side, all views to the table to have an honest conversation about exclusivity. we need to roll out education programmes, so people from an early age will realise that diversity is good, there classmates being from a different background is ok, as they are no different to you. This is being done in a school in Portlaoise, a teaching strategy. It encourages people from all backgrounds to work together.”

What is the government strategy to tackle racism here in Ireland?

“At the moment there is no national strategy against racism. The previous strategy ended in 2008, so there has been no national action plan since. Personally, I receive on average, two to five hundred hate mails, phone calls a week. Telling me I should be deported, my kid needs to be aborted like other children in China and I’ve no right to be in politics here.”

“Some forms of racism such as discrimination in goods and services and employment are well covered by the Equality legislation, other forms highlighted are less well dealt with either through legislation or policy initiatives, racism not covered in Irish legislation.”

“Lest we forget Fiona Ryan and Jonathan Mathis, the multicultural couple from the recent Lidl ad campaign. They urged people to sign an online petition for hate-crime law. After a death threat and abusive and racist comments online, they felt he needed to leave Ireland.

Even though the couple reported this and their concerns to the Gardai, they were told it was a “civil matter”. No person in any country should be subjected to this treatment.

Karl Ffrench
Karl Ffrench

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