Last Wednesday the Irish Independent carried a story about a Polish woman supposedly abusing Ireland’s social welfare system. She also, according to the Independent, called Donegal – or Danagall – a “shithole”.
Few - apart from Danagallians perhaps - could argue with the latter, but she said no such thing. It seems, in fact, she was very complimentary about the place and its inhabitants in an article which appeared in Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, dealing with the experiences of Poles looking for work in Ireland.
“Magda” had actually said that she did not like being on the dole and wants to work (having previously been employed in restaurants, hostels, and hotels for four-and-a-half years before losing her job). She spoke of her plans to become self-employed having done a FAS course on Hawaiian Massage before pointing out she was getting €67 a week more on the dole than she had been getting in her last waitressing job.
The Irish Independent – hoping, presumably, to tap the anti-foreigner sentiment that exists in Ireland – either wilfully, or mistakenly, mistranslated “Magda’s” words as saying that being on the dole in Ireland was "like a Hawaiian Massage". I don't think even Google Translate would get it that wrong.
It gave the impression that Magda - and by implication other “foreigners” in Ireland, focusing as it did on her nationality – was in this country to rob us and our social welfare system blind, while laughing at us as a bunch of hicks. Well, Danagallians anyway.
Then, some half-wit senator called Jimmy Harte (above) – apparently of the Labour Party - couldn’t get to the nearest radio station microphone fast enough in order to condemn her, and tell her to “go back to Poland”. Ever hear of “workers of the world unite”, Jimmy?
I heard the interview myself, in which a seemingly frothing-at-the-mouth Harte hinted at physical retribution to Magda from some of his constituents if she didn’t leave the environs. Even someone such as Harte should realise that phrases like “go back to Poland” are inflammatory in any context. And how would Outraged of Danagall have identified her among the county's Poles, exactly? Or would any Polish person they suspected have sufficed?
How many Irish people with a pre-existing jaundiced attitude to “foreigners” would have eagerly concurred with Harte’s statement, while at the same time thinking “they’re all at it” ?
Never mind the fact that many Irish people have really – unlike “Magda” – been taking the piss out of us and our social welfare system for decades, and maybe generations – even when we had near full employment. By contrast “Magda”, and others like her, grafted in the jobs that the Irish did not want to do. Jobs that career unemployed Paddy and Mary would not get out of their daytime pajamas for.
Sure, people can get all indignant about social welfare abuse if they want – and all the other abuses such as tax avoidance/evasion that go on here - but they should not focus on non-Irish nationals. Or are they saying that it is OK for Irish people to abuse the system, but not “foreigners”?
More importantly the Irish Independent, and other rags, should realise they have a responsibility to report stories accurately, and not publish cooked-up drivel that can act as an incitement to hatred against people who choose to live in this country and – like the real “Magda” - make a valuable contribution to it.
The same cannot not be said of Jimmy Harte, many of his fellow politicians, and the odd Irish Indo hack.
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