Has peace made us the Race hate capital of the world?- Breen

Suzanne Breen’s report into racist attacks across the north makes pretty depressing reading. From 41 attacks in 1996 to 936 attacks in the past year, this problem would not appear to be showing any signs of going away. Groups like the Multi-Cultural Resource Centre and Anti-Racism Network do a lot to highlight these attacks and support the ethnic minority population resident here. After one such attack in Lisburn recently, local community worker Fiona McCausland organised a rally in support of ethnic minorities in the town. Such expressions of solidarity must be welcomed, but this problem surely indicates the distance we all have yet to travel to become a truly inclusive and tolerant society, beyond our local differences.

  • slug

    I think to call Northern Ireland the race hate capital of the world is hyperbole. However I do think that we have a long way to go in terms of being a society that tolerates and indeed values difference and diversity. I believe things are moving in the right direction, and the fact that NI gets more diverse each year means we will have to.

  • Greenflag

    ‘However I do think that we have a long way to go in terms of being a society that tolerates and indeed values difference and diversity. ‘

    But hang on a minute here , NI was established on a foundation of intolerance and on not valuing differences and diversity . NI’s traditional xenophobic ‘values’ have been continually re-enforced through conflict , sectarianism and division between NI’s two main tribes for the past 40 years or more.

    Why should anybody expect anything different for newer immigrants? It won’t be long before Catholic Chinese and Protestant Chinese will be slugging it out on or around the 12th, and no Nationalist Poles will be bating the bejazus out of Unionist Poles on St Patrick’s Day ?

    ‘We have a long way to go ”

    Full marks for the obvious. The problem is the destination is unknown , the means of travel are missing, and the parties cannot agree where you should start from . But when you’re heading nowhere I suppose it does’nt matter except for making the right soundbites and looking ‘politically correct’ .

  • Resolve

    I am not going to disagree with your sensible point, Slug… but just in the interests of broadening the debate.. “Means that we will have to” does not mean that “we will”. Not to be overly pessimistic, but our whole political landscape here is defined by making small differences into huge insurmountable gulfs of divide and so when such foreigners come to our shores (and we are confronted with REAL differences) we have several problems on our hands. Many good people will welcome them. This goes without saying, and needs no elaboration.

    ‘Thinking’ hardliners will proclaim that they are welcome, but with the ulterior motive of “appearing” open to diversity. Such a superficial approach will not stand the course, especially when their approach to the other native population is so lacking in the same tolerance.

    The ‘Unthinking’ masses, so used to the narrow-mindedness cultivated and perpetuated by their political representatives, will possibly try their best to accept the new multi-cultural society, if for no other reason than they think ‘they are supposed to’… but their lack of tolerance will inevitably prevail… hence the nearly 1000 racial attacks in the last year.

    You see, to accept immigrants in and make them feel welcome, we need not only espouse the virtues of openness and tolerance, although their presence is essential. We must understand the nature of the new global society, particularly the EU’s Social pillar of the ‘free movement of persons’. Inherent in this is a new understanding of constitution, and the fluidity of capital (human or otherwise). Last time i checked, the world is round. We all sink together, or swim together. With ‘real’ issues threatening our very existence on this planet (e.g. environmental, nuclear, etc.) a province such as NI still struggling to take that first leap of faith into the new world can hardly be expected to cope very well when thrown in at the deep-end.

    On the upside, and more in line with what i think you meant, Slug, is that as more and more of them arrive we may recognise how insignificant the defferences between Northern Irishmen really are. If this helps improve relations, then isn’t that just great!

  • Resolve

    Interesting comments, Green Flag… but the Unionists in the north of the Island would have remained so had NI not been set-up, considering the momentum gained in the early part of the 20th Century. To think that it all would have been fine and dandy except for the setting-up of this state is ludicrous. It may have forced us to confront our problems head-on as opposed to the perpetuation and intensification of those problems that inevitably materialised post-partition. but our problems here stem from the simple fact of having some who wish to be British and some who wish to be Irish living side to side.

    On the face of it, this seems intractable, and we have all come to accept that it more or less is. But what about these Poles? what about the Romanians? etc etc etc… do they stop being Polish once they live in Ireland? this point serves to show us how pathetic our situation is… viewing the ‘constitutional question’ as the be-all and end-all, and hanging it millstone-like around our necks as some sort of guage of national loyalty – prevents us from appreciating the spirit of the ‘new global society’ that i referred to above…

  • slug

    Resolve I certainly think that a multipolar NI has a better chance of being multiethnic than a bi-polar one; we move away from a tug-of-war situation to something less easy to divide into two sides with a winner and a loser from any policy initiative. It dissolves the old binary divide.

    There are many different Northern Irelands; the one I inhabit is and has been rather tolerant of different ethnic minorities. We don’t have politicians complaining about too many immigrants. We are often quite friendly to people “from outside”. We do have a high share of thugs with little education no aspirations and a culture of violence and tribalism; isn’t the problem – a big one – one of policies to educate this particular demographic?

  • Greenflag

    ‘do they stop being Polish once they live in Ireland? ‘

    I’d say it’s their business and not anyone else’s . I went to school in Dublin with people with names such as Reinhardt , Churchill, Cafolla , Macari and others . Their ancestors came from other countries so what ? The same goes for present immigrants who have names like Poslowski, Chen , Patkunas etc etc etc . What I have learnt is that you cannot force people to be what they don’t want to be and that’s true whether that person is a British Unionist , Irish Nationalist or Ukrainian . What is important from my perspective is the nature of the political state in which people of different ‘national origins’ have chosen to work and live and raise families . For me that means a normal democracy such as ROI /UK (excluding NI) /France /USA etc . Can NI become a normal democracy ? I think they have tried and they have failed.

    ‘this point serves to show us how pathetic our situation is’

    The NI situation is ‘pathethic ‘ but for more than just national identity issues .

    As for ‘confronting the NI problem ‘head on’ I’m all in favour which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that the break up of a 6 county NI is inevitable and the sooner the better for both Unionists and Nationalists IMO.

    ‘viewing constitutional question’ as the be-all and end-all, and hanging it millstone-like around our necks as some sort of guage of national loyalty’

    This is just an aspect or result of what you refer to in your post as

    ‘the intensification of those problems that inevitably materialised post-partition.

    ‘To think that it all would have been fine and dandy except for the setting-up of this state is ludicrous’

    I agree.

    ‘the Unionists in the north of the Island would have remained so had NI not been set-up

    I agree again, which is why I favour the solution I do . I’m not by ‘nature’ a divider but I honestly cannot see any other solution working in the context of NI.

    Attacking ‘symptoms’ is fine so far as it goes but not after the patient is dead . The NI 6 county political patient is IMO -dead and has been since 1972 . For a brief period Brian Faulkner made a brave attempt at resurrection . Since then it’s been crucifixion and recrucifixion for ever Secretary of State sent to NI to solve what must be the longest standing constitutional impasse in Europe.

  • joeCanuck

    Stand up folks.
    When someone says something racist in your presence, speak out (if too intimidated by the circumstances, then walk away).
    Respect for others is the number one credo in my life.

    All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.
    -Edmund Burke

  • Resolve

    FAO GreenFlag…

    Thank you for elaborating upon what i said, i hadn’t the time earlier on… though i i think you got the impression that you were contradicting some of what i said, you did not. that was an excellent post. Great to read.

    N.B. “Do they stop being Polish once they live in Ireland?” was a rhetorical question, which served to make my point. I did not expect an answer.

    The question is, in this “dead patient” state, how do we deal with being thrown in at the deep-end and being forced to deal with huge amounts of immigrants while our own internal problems still persist..

    It might be asking too much for the Loyalist Paramilitary Organisations, for example, to take a pro-active role in this regard. they are at the grass roots level (at least in their areas, where many of the attacks take place) and are possibly the only people with enough influence over the mindless racist thugs (who commit many of these acts) to develop a more embracing mindset.

    (Caveat: This last paragraph is NOT meant to be interpreted to mean that I think racist attacks are the sole province of loyalists… community workers everywhere should be charged with this role, as well as the main political representatives…

  • slug

    I think its fair to say that a lot of the loyalist leadership have been quite proactive against racism.

  • Greenflag

    ‘how do we deal with being thrown in at the deep-end and being forced to deal with huge amounts of immigrants while our own internal problems still persist.. ‘

    Legislation and education is the only way and then time . Those found guilty of committing race/hate crimes against the members of any ‘community need to be on the receiving end of the full force of law. In NI that should mean mandatory 10 year sentences for those found guilty of attacking others on the basis of race/religion or ethnic background . Those found guilty of burning down Orange Halls or Catholic Schools or other Institutions public or private should receive mandatory 10 year jail sentences with no probation. Draconian perhaps but nothing less will persuade the idiots who commit these crimes that society at large will not tolerate such behaviours.

    If the support of loyalist or republican paramilitaries can be enlisted to help reduce these types of crime -fine . But in the final analysis it’s up to the courts and the police to crack down on these crimes .

    There’s only one human race even if there are thousands of different ethnic cultures and peoples . When people have been ‘indoctrinated’ for hundreds of years that somehow they are by nationality , or race or religion superior to others then the task is more difficult but not impossible . The USA /UK/Germany etc etc have all shown what can be done.

    Unfortunately it is those at the ‘bottom ‘ of the economic pyramid in most countries who feel most threatened by immigrants/foreigners etc etc . Thus part of the answer has to be for NI to create a dynamic growing economy where all can hope to aspire to a better economic future .

  • Donagh

    I know this is playing the woman and not the ball, but does nobody else think that Suzanne Breen is the biggest moaner in the world ever? If it’s not students in the Holylands, it’s taxi drivers, or smokers, or barstaff, or shop workers, or chewing gum, or… give us all a break Suzanne for fecks sake…

  • Why

    Three weeks ago a 51 yr old East Timor man went to Craigavon area hospital with a stomach complaint, he was given the all clear and sent home, two hours later he was dead.
    He leaves behind a wife and eight kids who live near me, they can manage two words of English, we had a collection around the local area and raised money towards the funeral, the local GAA club gave them use of the club after the funeral and no doubt some free drinks.

  • Donagh

    That’s awful Why, but unfortunately from a personal perspective, not new for CAH (regardless of ethic origin). Do you know if there is still a collection ongoing or of anything the family urgently need that someone here might be able to help with?

  • Brian Boru

    The Northern statelet was founded as a tribal-reservation for the Unionists so of course it is going to have a racism problem. The Loyalists want to “keep Ulster British”. Seems the terrorists on their side interpret that as a license to burn Poles and others from their homes. Note that nearly always this seems to be happening in Protestant areas? Why is this? What is it about the Loyalist community that leads to this? I think its the “Keep Ulster British” slogan, which seems to mean more than just keeping the North in the UK…

  • Moochin photoman

    In the past 3 weeks i have come across 4 swastikas daubed or sprayed on walls in East Belfast and the Donegall Rd and yes these are Loyalist areas.
    Its not a question of me looking for them, they are appearing more and more.
    For all the “Hail fellow well met” Ireland (the island) is Racist and, as we know too well here in the North, resistant to change

    Link to photo…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/23386031@N00/178722208/

  • Keith M

    Intolerance is nothing new in Ulster and certainly has nothing to do with partition.

    In what other country would people who arrived centuries ago still be perceived as “blow ins” and denied basic rights like public demonstration?

    Far too much of the fabric of Northern Ireland society is built around national identities (of both varieties) and until there’s a shared identity and an end to hankering for what might have been that’s unlikely to change.

    Howvever as bad as things are in N.I., anyone who says that the problem is the worst in the world, needs to do a bit of travelling. You can start with the so called liberal shangrai-las of France and Netherlands and talk to immigrants there.

  • Young Fogey

    It’s all the Pradissints’ fault.