Republican News · Thursday 21 December 2000

[An Phoblacht]


Does this little girl cause Irish fears?

After reading Séamus de Búrca's letter in your last issue I could not resist replying. His view is, unfortunately, all too common not just in Ireland, but within Sinn Féin as well, and it should be heard and answered. Simply shutting up people who are raising it will not solve this problem.

Yes Séamus, everybody is entitled to their opinion. If Irish people have genuine worries and fears and can explain and express them in a civilised, polite way leading to a mutual discussion on how we can work things out for all sides, that is fine. That is how it should be. That is the only way a multicultural society can successfully function. And it can be done; I've seen it with my own eyes.

But if you seriously believe that the way the Dublin bus driver expressed his fears for the future was the right one or at least deserves some compassion in any way, I must strongly disagree with you. My feeling after reading this is that people like yourself haven't experienced any serious discrimination and offence in your personal lives. Maybe it isn't that relevant in Cork nowadays, but people in the Six Counties (even though some of them can be discriminating against others too) know exactly what I am talking about.

Imagine yourself as an Irishman who came to England to work and was treated this way by an English bus driver. Maybe that can clarify things for you a bit.

To me, those aren't racist who treat everybody the same way they would treat any of their compatriots. If it is different - it is racism.

Are you saying that the Dublin bus driver acted not out of racism but out of concern about the country? Then let me give you this example: why is that I personally have never experienced any problems in Dublin or the rest of the country because I am white and look Irish? I was met everywhere with cheers, even when I said that I am an immigrant working here. Why then is it that my little girl, just five at the time and of Russian, Ukrainian, Cossack, Afro-Caribbean, Dutch, Georgian, Jewish and Colombian-Indian descent, was harassed on the bus on her very first day in Dublin by a young Irish man, who told her that ``we don't want Negroes in this country''?

Take a good look at her: is this little girl a threat to the future of Ireland? If she is, could you explain to me why?

I personally find that racism is widespread in Ireland in its most wild, medieval forms. And I can compare, as I have lived in several countries in Europe and beyond. I do want to hear about Irish worries and concerns and address them - but not the insults of the kind mentioned above to somebody who is much weaker and can't respond properly. That seems to be the only way to express these ``feelings of ordinary working people'' you write about, here. This isn't acceptable in any civilised society.

True, Ireland has a very little experience of a multicultural society so far. But it is also true that, whether you like it or not, Ireland will have to deal with it and will have to learn how to live with it. The reality of the Irish economy's requirements at this stage necessitates immigration.

I myself grew up in Russia, a society that was - in this lack of multiculturalism - exactly the way Irish society was until recently. Luckily, I had the opportunity to travel, and I feel a thousand times richer and more fortunate because I have had a chance to get to know people from all around the world. The hostile ``controlling and dividing'' attitude will neither change things for better nor take Ireland ``back the way it was''. An experience of a multicultural society doesn't have to be a negative one - if both sides are open-minded, tolerant and practice mutual respect.

I am sure that the Native Americans and the Australian Aboriginals had their fears and anxieties too - and they didn't have a colonial past or an experience of a multicultural society either - when your ancestors came to their countries centuries ago. Did anybody ask them of their fears? No, all Europeans, Irish included, just took it for granted that it was their right to seek a better life wherever the destiny would bring them. Then why are you now denying this right to other people?

It is also true that Ireland - or any other country in the world - can't take in everybody in the world who is in need. Just remember: nobody is emigrating forever ``for fun''. And the only way to change the current situation is to change the way things are back in the home countries of these unfortunate people who are doing just exactly what the Irish people themselves did for centuries of the brutal British colonial rule.


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