Two women have written in two separate papers reently and both articles are informative. Placed beside each other, they tell us something about the nature of our society, north and south.
In the Belfast Telegraph two days ago, Finola Meredith pointed out that race hate crimes in the north are on the increase, particularly in Belfast. Over the past ten years, how many such crimes?
“Hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds of innocent people beaten and bloodied and driven from their homes. Scared to walk along their own street. Desperate for somewhere to belong, but terrified to live in a neighbourhood where somebody has scrawled ‘locals only’ on a boarded-up house, and their windows get broken every week.”
On average every day, Meredith says, two racist crimes happen here in the north, particularly in Belfast. And it’s getting worse. In the first three months of last year there were 103 race crimes; in the first three months of this year there were 156.
Meredith makes two other telling points: the official figures are probably far short of the real total, because a lot of attacks go unreported; and it’ s hard getting convictions, since local people are afraid they’ll be subjected to similar brutality if they act as witnesses in a case.
Why do these attacks happen? The excuse you’ll hear is that immigrants are creating disturbances or that they’re “taking our jobs”. Lame or what? The real reason for these attacks and the reason they so frequently happen in unionist working-class areas, is that to bolster your self-image, you need someone to look down on. Now that nationalists are beginning to emerge from the role of second-class citizens, another inferior hate-group is necessary. Immigrants? They’ll do nicely. Easy to identify as well, from their language or their colour. Not to mention all those funny cooking smells.
The second article was in the Irish Times yesterday. Genevieve Carbery reported how Polish diplomats thanked the Irish people for their welcome in this country over the last ten years. They did it by way of a video and with considerable good humour. What’s more, the video’s in Irish, with English sub-titles.
“Thank you for all the cheerful and easy-to-read books” the voice-over says, showing a woman reading Ulysses upside down. “We thank you for the healthy food” – showing a plate of greasy Irish friend breakfast. And so on. Ending with “Most of all thanks for being so open and making us feel at home for the past ten years”. The video ends with Police embassy staff shouting “Go raibh míle maith agat a mhuintír na hÉireann!”
Now tell me this: which group – Finola’s bunch of knuckle-draggers in the north or these Polish people in the south – are making the more constructive contribution to Irish society? On second thoughts, don’t answer that. It’s be too depressing.