Thursday, 11 April 2013

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland head calls for Fianna Fail to tackle racism in its ranks

An interesting piece appeared in The Irish Times op-ed page today, by Siobhan O’Donoghue, director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

O'Donoghue cites instances of rabble-rousing racist comments from two Fianna Fail councillors, one who advocates an "Irish-first" housing policy – similar to the BNP's "British first" policy when it had a councillor, Derek Beackon, elected in the Isle of Dogs back in the 90s. 

It's interesting to read the comments section in the original Times online article, where the feeling of some esteemed commenters seems to be "and what's wrong with that?".

What's wrong, is that at least the BNP were honest in their racism – unlike the mealy mouthed Soliders of Destiny, and their economy wrecking, gobshite, backwoods gombeen TDs and councillors.  

Even though open racism is not official Fianna Fail policy – apart from a bit of institutionalised Anglophobia – it seems to be OK by Micheal Martin once his party colleagues issue their xenophobic utterances "in a personal capacity".

Mind you, this is not confined to The Soliders and their gobshite voters...  the blog has previously highlighted a Fine Gael mayor, Kevin Kiely, who called for "foreign workers" to be deported, another one, Kieran Dennison, who complained about "foreign nationals" on housing lists and a Shinner, Aengus O Snodaigh, who used the cloak of Irish cultural nationalism (so much more subtle, as the likes of Plaid Cymru will know)  in an attempt to exclude "foreign workers" from the Civil Service by means of unnecessary Irish language requirements, after moves were made to relax such barriers.  Then there was a "Labour" senator, Jimmy Harte, who called for a woman to be "sent back to Poland".

Ireland is full of such attitudes, from the right to the so-called "left".

They are, it seems, endemic.

Racism must never be accepted as a strategy to gain votes

Siobhán O’Donoghue

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 17:48

Democracy requires accountability and accountability is synonymous with integrity, transparency and honesty. The willingness of elected representatives to uphold these principles and values is in theory the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.

Transparency International amongst others have signalled a dramatic weakening of these principles in recent years, and readers will be only too well aware of the dire consequences arising from the lack of accountability in public life.

In the recent incident of a Limerick Fianna Fáil councillor declaring that there should be an “Irish first” policy to access social housing, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed that councillor Kevin Sheahan was “acting in a personal capacity”. Martin provided this view in a response to an email sent by many concerned people to him about Sheahan’s comments. Fianna Fáil has not made a public statement on the issue to date.

The use of the term “acting in a personal capacity” seems to have become a popular strategy in accountability avoidance tactics. A number of weeks ago Fianna Fáil also said that Donegal county councillor Seán McEniff was “acting in a personal capacity” when he demanded the segregation of Travellers and settled people. For the record neither McEniff nor Sheahan stated at the time they made these comments that they were “acting in a personal capacity”. Both made their comments in public settings in the course of carrying out their public office.

Racism, fascism and far-right movements are on the rise across Europe. Most people are appalled by the extremes of hatred targeted towards minority groups, including immigrants and Roma. The actions of groups such as Golden Dawn in Greece have been compared to pre-World War II conditions. It may seem a stretch of the imagination to make the connection between the rise of extreme right wing movements elsewhere in Europe and events involving local elected representatives in Ireland. However, if in this insidious manner racism goes unchecked, the conditions that lead to violent extremism can and do become a reality.

The comments of councillors Sheahan and McEniff have appeared on right wing and white supremacist websites and discussion boards as justification of the extreme views being promoted by these groups. There is also evidence on social media that some people willingly believe his false assertions even when the facts are presented to them. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has strongly rejected councillor Sheahan’s assertion that immigrants are getting preferential treatment in accessing social housing, and the statistics reinforce the facts.

The fact that there are local and European elections next year adds urgency to the need for decisive action to deal with those who use the lives of vulnerable minority groups to engage in dangerous and rogue electioneering. Allowing the politics of fear and resentment to blossom is dangerous. Political parties cannot turn a blind eye to their members using racism as a strategy to gain votes.

All the main political parties have endorsed the Anti-Racism Political Protocol first produced by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Xenophobia and now co-ordinated by the Irish Network Against Racism. Candidates in signing the protocol agree to “guarantee that when engaging in ongoing debate in relation to groups which are the potential targets of racism, such as asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers and Travellers, [their] contribution to such debate is conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of minority ethnic groups”.

All political parties, not just Fianna Fáil, need to dust off their copy of the protocol and engage in an education process with their members, especially candidates running in next year’s elections.

Fianna Fáil now has a choice to make. Does it allow its councillors to wilfully deceive their constituents, and condone the blatant fuelling of racism by party representatives? Or will it uphold its proclaimed condemnation of racism by holding its representatives accountable through imposing sanctions? As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”


John said...

UKIP and the Daily Mail are hard at it here against the Romanians. It is the usual old trick on picking on a group that will appeal to the ignorant who believe that the source of all their troubles are the "FOREIGNERS", while it is the elected
fools who are the cause. I have heard this old story doing the rounds in Dublin. That Nigerians get 4,800 Euro to buy a car!!

The Gombeen Man said...

I've heard that bollocks too, John. One gobshite told me he knew it "for a fact" because his brother "worked in the Social Welfare Department".

There's no arguing with The Man In The Pub, is there?

DC3 said...

The Irish latent racists? Never.

The Irish controlled by emergent behaviour (Got to laugh there)? Never.

Ireland is great craic.

The Gombeen Man said...

Bad behaviour too, DC3. Soo much for this mythical "sympathy with 'other' oppressed peoples" and all that baloney.

DC3 said...

The only sympathy the Irish ever had was for superstition and the delusional 3rd Reich.

Young Ireland said...

Hardly surprising. Throughout history, instead of calmly figuring a way out of our woes, we shift them onto someone else. I am sad to say that casual xenophobia is on the rise and is in many cases socially accepted

Young Ireland said...

BTW, here is a particularly bizzare example of such xenophobia (in an Anglophobic context), courtesy of Gerry McGeough and thoroughly fisked by yours truly:

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks for that, YI. Bloody Hell, these guys can go on about "planters" and colonialism and so forth, but really they are no different from the BNP and the like. And yeah, I'd be out of here on the first plane if they got in. Sadly, they might...

Kamil said...

Hi, is it really racism or maybe a xenophobia?

The Gombeen Man said...

Hi Kamil.

It's a fine distinction, isn't it? Maybe a bit of both with a bit of ignorance and boorishness thrown into the mix?

HQ said...

Was thinking about what an Irish version of certain group plaguing Greece at the moment would call itself.

The Puceshirts
(Bingo)Wings of Freedom
Haughey Youth

Then it hit me. Not literally,mind.

Golden Shower.

The Gombeen Man said...

Ha ha, HQ. Excellent!!