Thursday, 14 August 2008

Englishman wins discrimination case against Irish work colleagues

Did you hear the one about the Irishmen who told the one about the Englishman who went to the Equality Board?

There is a certain class of person in Ireland who attributes an inherent superiority to all things Irish. But that’s par for the course. You get them everywhere, and nationalism isn’t the most noble or logical of –isms, after all. In every example of the genre, every nation has its conceits.

For us, they take the form of us being the friendliest people in the world, loved by all (except those bloody Brits, of course). We’re the funniest, wittiest people in the world (in fairness, what could funnier than Riverdance or Eamonn O’Cuiv?).

We’re morally superior too. For instance, we don’t allow abortion – let the deed happen elsewhere! We still wouldn’t have divorce if it weren’t for the pesky EU “bringing it in”. In fact, we didn’t even have sex before marriage until the 1990s, as only married couples could get rubber johnnies by means of a doctor’s prescription. Unless you were one of the few who could find another circumstance for using the things, in which case you might know how to get them illegally.

And speaking of things illegal, aren’t we a nation of rebels anyway, be the hokey? (Mind you, that doesn’t explain how we never rebelled against the nonsense above). Last but not least - we are not racist or prejudiced, thanks to a deep empathy and understanding forged by our collective experience of oppression, victimization and tyranny over The 800 Years.

So how does that explain why our bosses rip off foreign workers as enthusiastically as any foreign bosses? How does it explain how our new Irish landlord class is as bad as anything we had under British rule? How does it explain why some Irish workers abuse their colleagues on the grounds of their nationality?

An Englishman working in Ireland has won a complaint against his erstwhile Irish work colleagues on the grounds of racist abuse. I suppose the more hardline of you might look at it as revenge for the crimes that were Bernard Manning (above), Jimmy Cricket, Frank Carson, and others, who made careers out of racist “jokes” about the Irish to an appreciative British audience. But the problem with that is that you can’t tar all British people with the same broad brush.

Yes, some Irish people were victimized and discriminated against while working in Britain, but most (and there were thousands and thousands) of us living working in Britain in the 80s and 90s - I was one - were treated as equals, with respect and dignity. I suppose the bottom line is that there’s a world of difference between ribbing someone you are on good, friendly terms with, and using their accent or country of origin to isolate or ridicule them and make their lives hell.

And before someone says “hey, can this guy not take a joke?”, bear in mind that was precisely the argument used against the minority of Irish people in Britain who encountered who stood up to similar abuse in the workplace way back then.

If the other person isn't laughing, then it's not funny.

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