THERE she was beaming with excitement and happiness, in a line-up with other little girls as the medals for gymnastics were being handed out. When the Gymnastics Ireland official walked right past her and gave her medal to the next girl in the row the little girl’s beaming smile turned to visible confusion, then it was utterly heartbreaking to see her begin to realise that she was being deliberately overlooked, because she is black.
Many have now removed the images of this sickening incident from their social media, as the mother of the child subjected to this racist isolation and humiliation is worried that her daughter will become the target of further racist attack.
Irish people might compare themselves favourably to other European white societies when it comes to racism, but Ireland is proving itself to be just as racist as those we used to slag.
My son’s great friend in Ballymun is of Nigerian heritage. With the broadest of Dublin accents his equally broad shoulders take daily racism. He has suffered verbal and physical attacks from Joe and Josephine Citizen of all ages, including children, and arrest and routine harassment from Gardaí. Being called N***** and C*** is his everyday life in Dublin. Mícheál is as Dublin as I am.
Last week, around the corner from the college from which he will graduate this autumn, racists physically jostled and abused TDs on the first day of the resumed session in Leinster House. Michael Healy Ray was escorted by Gardaí away from the sickest of individuals who hurled abuses of the worst kind at him. The mob's anger was rooted in racism. There was significant response, but rather than stating fascists have no place in Ireland the response of many was that the mob’s “tactics” did them no favours. One presumes that for them it is their “tactics” that are questionable, while their politics of hate is somehow legitimate.
Racism and fascism are insidious most of the time, and bawling in your face some of the time. That ensures all strata of society has a place in the hierarchy of hate. In 2023 many scenes of physical, emotional and systemic hate involved the flying of tricolours, officially and unofficially. And union flags.
Try making Belfast your home if your face is a different colour, or your heritage from further away, and you run the risk of your home being attacked, at the very least. Your business venture may be firebombed into non-existence. Your cultural centre or place of worship may well be burned to the ground by individuals who somehow are never caught or held accountable. It is almost like these routine and predictable assaults are perpetrated by the invisible man and his mates. British and Irish citizens on this island are engaged in obscene overt and less obvious racism that it is not called out, or importantly, effectively held to account. That is not a coincidence. It is institutional racism.
For those of us citizens seeking a New Republic we need to be vocal now, before this time of constitutional change and opportunity becomes the stuff of nightmares for so many of our brothers and sisters.