Northern Ireland’s passive response to racist attacks…

Chris Gilligan in Spiked! has picks up on the proposition on Slugger yesterday that we may be seeing sectarianism mutate into open racism… and looks at the hard numbers, and finds that in actual fact the number of racist incidents relative to the numbers of in-migrating populations has actually dropped:

There has been an increase in minority immigrants in Northern Ireland from 534 in 2000-01 to 12,255 in 2005-06. My graph below plots the two sets of figures: for recorded racist incidents (blue line) and for number of immigrants (pink line). It shows that the absolute number of racial incidents has increased year on year, as indicated by the rising blue line; but it also shows that the number of racist incidents relative to the number of new immigrants has actually decreased. In other words, an immigrant was far less likely to be on the receiving end of a racist incident in 2005-06 than he was in 2000-01, even though there were more incidents in 2005-06.

That will be of no comfort to the Roma victims, but he goes on to pick up a few other aspects of the problem, not least the defensive (community safety) nature of the police’s response:

A number of local anti-racists have, quite rightly, pointed out that if the Romanians leave Northern Ireland as a result of the attacks (an option which seems increasingly likely since their evacuation), then this will send a message to racists that their intimidation works. The police, however, seem to view the whole incident in the managerial terms of ‘community safety’ and as a useful PR exercise, ensuring that there were numerous cameraman ready to capture scenes of the evacuation and interview the Romanians when they were in police safety.

That’s a well oiled reflex, backed by mechanisms administered by the Housing Executive for parcelling victims of paramilitary violence, quickly and seamless out of areas dominated by one particular organisation and (often) into other estates controlled by their paramilitary rivals… It’s a short term tactic that has the positive short term outcome of getting the victim out of harm’s way, but it’s also a tacit admission that the functions of a democratic state are failing whole communities on the ground.

And in the process cedes a degenerate form of droit de seigneur to certain paramilitaries over whole communities…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty