Immigration and Racism in Ireland
In the last fifteen to twenty years, two new phenomena have finally reached Ireland –Immigration and alongside it - Racism. This is not to say that we Irish never had our prejudices before the ‘blacks’ arrived, back then we were quite happy directing our bigotry and ignorance towards travellers, gays, Jews and Protestants.
AY Banner at Afghan hunger strike
This all changed in the early 1990s, when Ireland experienced a major economic boost, wages increased, more jobs were created… the so called Celtic Tiger had arrived. With this development, immigration figures into Ireland rose, young men and women from poor or developing economies looked to Ireland as a chance for a decent job and a better life; much as we looked to England and the U.S.A and countless other countries when in the 1840s, 1950s and 1980s we in our hundreds of thousands went all over the world looking for employment. It is ironic and sad that some people not only do not realise this, others completely ignore it and still have this uneducated view that immigrants are ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’.
Asylum Seekers and Refugees, though being some of the most vulnerable and defenceless members of our society, are more discriminated and lied about than any other. The urban myths of asylum seekers getting free houses, cars and mobile phones are still alive and well. The facts are asylum seekers in Ireland are not allowed to work, do not receive social welfare and do not receive special treatment in the health system.
It will come to no ones surprise that with the rise of racism in Ireland, anti-immigrant groups and political parties have also developed. The Immigration Control Platform (ICP), managed to field two candidates in the last General Election, one in Dublin South Central and the other in Cork South Central, each receiving 926 (2.1%) and 371 (0.7%) votes respectively. Though obviously an extremely poor result by anyone’s standard, the reality is over 1,300 people voted for an openly racist and anti-immigrant political party, a scary thought. Though the ICP is the most well known group, a number of smaller non-parliamentary organisations have come and gone over the last few years - the imaginary Celtic Legion, the one man and his dog outfit the Irish People’s Party, the Limerick based/USA backed NSRUS and the anti choice, catholic nationalist Justin Barrett and his little bunch of followers.
The latest kids on the block, The Celtic Wolves, a tiny group of neo Nazi skinheads were humiliated last June. After a year or two of stickering and having camp outs in the mountains, information gathered led a meeting of theirs to be severely disrupted, pictures taken and the four scared skinheads openly displaying neo Nazi pins and t-shirts being chased up and down O’Connell Street in Dublin.
Nevertheless, anti-fascists and anti-racists will have their work cut out for them in the years ahead as fascist groups try to capitalize on the increasing levels of immigration and the consequent growth of racism in Ireland. Racist graffiti and stickers are more visible in our cities and towns. We saw the brutal reality of racism on the streets at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the Afghanis’ hunger strike. There is the growing and scary new threat of an extreme nationalist right-wing movement comprising Youth Defence, Ancient Order of Hibernians and disillusioned traditional catholic republicans.
Thankfully with such well organised groups as Residents Against Racism who work with immigrants and oppose state racism and Anti Fascist Action, (who ‘both physically and ideology confront fascism’ and have a strong working class perspective) the threat to Ireland of a fascist coup or experiencing the same horrible fate in the North where racist attacks on immigrants occurs almost daily, is still far from a reality.
As Adolf Hitler said himself ‘‘only one thing could have stopped our movement – if in the days when we were small and weak, our opponents had understood our aims and intentions, and smashed us with the utmost determination’’. Our duty as anarchists is to confront racist beliefs and ideas, while on the other hand, physically oppose fascist groups organising and recruiting in our schools, our workplace and in our communities. We have to learn from history.