Damned immigrants

Ireland is a country of deep contradictions.For example, we’re known world-wide for our devotion to craic and having a laugh. Add to that friendliness. And yet a friend of  mine who tried to settle in a small village outside Dublin found it impossible. “I’d go into the local pub and they’d stare at me and then go on talking among themselves.” After a year and a half he left the area.

In Galway city the other day, windows were broken and computer equipment damaged in a mosque. A spokesman for the Muslim community said it had been terrified by what had happened. The Catholic bishop of Galway described the attack as a “willful and malicious assault.”

And it’s not just south of the border. We all know about immigrants being terrorized in areas of  Belfast, with slogans such as “No foreigners” daubed on doors.

It’s easy to brush this kind of thing off as the exception, but there seems to be rather a lot of exceptions and most of us carry an element of racial prejudice when the question of immigrants comes up. We won’t say it out loud, but some part of us doesn’t see a human being in front of us, we see  a Romanian or a Pole or an African.

When a number of immigrants are allowed in, we take great care to spread them throughout the country. What’s that all about? Do we think that they’re some sort of substance like salt, that if  too much is located in one spot it is distasteful? Do we think our communities are so wonderful, a sizeable addition of difference to it would be a bad thing? Might the change wrought by the presence of immigrants not be a change for the better? Or do we think it’s impossible for our communities to be any better?

But to end more positively. Yesterday, Rhasidat Adeleke, a young black woman, came back from Baku where she won gold medals in both the 100m  and 200m for Ireland at the European Youth Olympic Festival. In an extended interview at Dublin airport with an RTÉ reporter, she showed herself to be pleasant, articulate, modest and smart. It’s past time we appreciated how much our country is enriched by people like Rhasidat.

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