No Irish, no blacks, no dogs

Newstalk 106 this morning did a story about immigrant and ethnic minority kids and the troubles some of them are having finding places in their local schools. I got a sort of sick feeling in my stomach as soon as they announced the topic, because I knew that every neanderthal in Dublin would be listening and texting in their views on the matter.

Sure enough. Judging by the comments read out on the air, Dublin is in the company of Jim Crow-era Mississippi and apartheid-era South Africa in terms of its average citizen's enlightenment on racial issues. And listeners were told that those were the milder responses.

One texter said that they spent €7,000 so that their children could attend fee-paying schools with no "minorities". I'm reminded of the expression "a fool and his money are soon parted". What exactly is going to happen to those children when they turn 16 and have to face the real world?

Does anybody seriously think that we can turn the clock back to when Ireland was a monoracial, monoreligious country? (Not that it was ever really either, of course!) Migration and multiculturalism are a fact of life now, all over the world and we cannot possibly be an exception here. People need to learn to deal with this.

I spent my holidays in Africa this year and it really gave me a new perspective on the migration experience. I found it incredibly difficult to be in a place where everyone could tell just by looking at you that you didn't belong, and where you were often the centre of attention just by being there. And this was in a place where my skin colour actually gave me some privileges and where the reaction from people on the street was motivated by curiosity rather than hostility. I really can't imagine how uncomfortable it must be to be on the receiving end of racial attitudes here ... and especially to try to raise children in that sort of environment, to have to try to shield them from the hatred people like the 106 texters were spewing.

When I just wrote that last line, about parents trying to shield their children, my mind flashed back to images from the Holy Cross siege in Ardoyne a few years ago. Most of the 106 texters probably had the same reactions to that as I did - anger, disgust, disbelief. But while they may not be throwing urine-filled condoms at the children - at least, not yet - it is fundamentally the same attitude.

PSNI GAA game – a step too far

Today’s Daily Ireland cover story features Joe Brolly (son of Francie and Anne) explaining why he has no problem with his GAA club playing the PSNI and, furthermore, why Sinn Féin should have no problem with it either.

I won’t attempt to speak for Sinn Féin on the matter, but I personally cannot accept Joe Brolly’s arguments. It’s too much, and too soon. Far too soon.

Of course, my own experience with the northern police has been limited. But it hasn’t been good. A few years ago I was on a bus travelling back from a Celtic game which (rather foolishly in retrospect) made a stop near the Park Centre Roundabout to let a passenger off. A few scumbags in Rangers tops set upon us and hurled a brick through one of our windows, fortunately not hitting anyone until it had bounced off an opposite wall, thus slowing down its trajectory. The brick landed at my feet and I picked it up – had anyone’s head been in its way, they would have been very lucky indeed to escape without serious brain damage.

At that point the bus driver did the sensible thing and drove off as quickly as possible, stopping in Newry to report the incident. Well, to try to report the incident, because as it happened the peelers only wanted to know one thing: Had we been drinking?

Now granted this is only one incident but frankly, when you walk into a police station holding a brick in your hand which has just been thrown through your window, and which very clearly could have caused you very serious injury or death, and the police show not even the slightest bit of concern, it really doesn’t do much for your opinion of them!

And there are plenty of recent events which lead me to suspect that this attitude persists. Take the arrest of Máire Nic an Bháird for speaking Irish, the collusion of the PSNI in the erection of loyalist flags in Lurgan, the Ballymena PSNI chief's disgraceful attempt to portray the Michael McIlveen murder as a tit-for-tat incident - I could go on. On the evidence available to me, the PSNI does not appear to be anywhere near sufficiently reformed for republicans to accept the kind of normalisation of relations that would allow this game to go ahead. It is, of course, the GAA's decision and not ours - but it's a decision I find disappointing.

I also question the wisdom of Daily Ireland highlighting, on its cover, a quote from Joe Brolly in which he used the term "black bastards". Of course most of us reading that would know what he meant, but in a multicultural country I think we need to pay a little more attention to how our words might be misinterpreted by newcomers here. I'm actually a bit surprised that this didn't occur to anyone at Daily Ireland.
I wasn't surprised to read this morning that the CORI report due out tomorrow will show that the gap between rich and poor in this state continues to widen. I see this with my own eyes, walking around the North Inner City.

What I do find absolutely shocking in that report is the statistic that 22.6% of the adult population are functionally illiterate. 22.6%!

Very serious questions have to be asked as to how nearly one out of every four people in this state can go through twelve years of schooling and emerge lacking such a basic skill. There is clearly something very wrong with an education system that allows this to happen. And I have to conclude that primary responsibility for this disaster must rest with those who have primary responsibility for education.

I am not trying to engage in gratuitous Church-bashing. I acknowledge that, in many countries, Catholic schools have superior performance records in comparison with other schools (although that is often due to factors such as self-selection rather than anything inherent to Catholic education itself). But the fact is that the Church has been given a job to do in this state and with an almost one-in-four failure rate, it is clearly not being done. This needs to be recognised.


In other news, I see that Republican Sinn Féin invited POW-turned-right wing ethnonationalist Gerry McGeough to speak at their annual hunger strike commemoration. I find this a bit perplexing. I know that many RSF members share McGeough's reactionary views on reproductive freedom (as, sadly, do too many members of my own party), but I am surprised RSF would want to associate themselves with someone now in the news mostly for his ties to fascist sympathiser Justin Barrett and for his slurs on gays and immigrants.

RSF are already viewed by a lot of people, including those who tend to share their analysis of the national question, as fundamentalist political dinosaurs. From the discussions I have had with republicans of the dissident variety, I know that this reputation is impeding RSF's growth and they are not going to shake it by offering a platform to the likes of Gerry McGeough.

On the Morris Tribunal

We've said this before, but with the most recent revelations about Garda misconduct - a word which scarcely seems adequate to convey the utterly appalling actions of some members of the force - it needs to be said again:

Giving a corrupt police force the powers which the Offences Against The State Act gives them is like giving a blowtorch to a pyromaniac.

The Act needs to go. Now.

A perfect example of border idiocy

Have you ever tried to book a ticket online for the bus from Dublin to Belfast? You can't do it. This is because, as a Bus Éireann person explained to me, their system and Ulsterbus's system are not compatible.

You can book a Eurolines ticket online for anywhere in Britain. You can book a Eurolines ticket online for Poland, even. But you cannot book a Bus Éireann/Ulsterbus ticket online for Belfast... or Newry, or Derry. Want to go to Enniskillen? The bus to Donegal Town stops there. But you'll have to book your seat all the way through.

Somebody needs to sort this stupidity out. It's 2006 for heaven's sake.
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