Opinion

No place for racism in modern Ireland – Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is an Irish News columnist and former editor of the newspaper.

The scene on Parnell Street in Dublin city centre after violence broke out following an attack where five people were injured, including three young children
The scene on Parnell Street in Dublin city centre after violence broke out following an attack where five people were injured, including three young children The scene on Parnell Street in Dublin city centre after violence broke out following an attack where five people were injured, including three young children

JUST when you thought the tide was turning and right-wing fanaticism was in retreat, the Argentines elect a chainsaw-wielding president, the Dutch vote for a right-wing racist, and the centre of Dublin goes up in flames when a mob takes to the streets.

In England, it looks like it is curtains for the Conservatives, but the alternative is a Labour Party which has moved resolutely to the right in pursuit of power. Shadow ministers are banned from workers’ picket lines; its Europe policy is driven by extremist ‘Little Englanders’; and if there’s a fence available, Keir Starmer will sit on it.

Politics was never that clean, but the toxicity we are witnessing around the world is a clear and present danger to the safety and security of our planet.

There might once have been a time when it did not much matter what happened on the other side of the world. But today we are so interconnected that a ripple in Argentina can cause of tidal wave in Europe. Social media, and the power it gives those who want to manipulate people, has been a game-changer. Among their prime targets are young people.

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There is no doubt that hate groups, such as those who rioted in Dublin, draw strength from fascist thugs in Italy, the far right in France, and Trump-supporting supremacists in the United States.

Because of its role in world politics, what is happening in the USA is a particular concern.

The United States was built on white supremacism – the land was taken by force from the Americas’ indigenous peoples, and it was moulded into the USA by slaves.

The Ku Klux Klan is the most high-profile organisation, but researchers have identified some 100 white nationalist groups in the US and almost the same number of neo-Nazi groups.

A bus on fire in O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre
A bus on fire in O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre A bus on fire in O’Connell Street in Dublin city centre

Yes, it was a land of immigrants – a melting pot, to use the cliché – but they were the ‘right sort of immigrants’, white and Christian – English, Scandinavians, Germans, Italians and, of course, the Irish.

The concept of ethno-nationalism will not be unfamiliar to those living in the north of Ireland. We are still trying to untangle ourselves from a political system predicated on the belief that the north belonged to one tribe, and one tribe alone.

Across Europe there are those in office who believe in nations which are ethnically pure. And they have ridden to power by demonising immigrants – in particular those from an Islamic background.

We see that writ large in the exploitation of migrants for political ends by a string of British prime ministers – May, Johnson, Truss and now Sunak.

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Underlying this attitude to fellow human beings is a warped political theory called the “Great Replacement”, a belief that migrants will overwhelm white populations if they are not contained.

The reality is somewhat different. Without hard-working people from immigrant backgrounds, much of our society – in particular the health service – would cease to function. Rarely do you hear our political leaders make that point.

Ireland and Britain are two of the wealthiest countries in the world. They can afford to hold out a welcoming embrace to those who have suffered persecution in their own countries and been forced to flee. Indeed, they have a moral duty to do so.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made curbs on immigration a key policy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made curbs on immigration a key policy Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made curbs on immigration a key policy

But those same governments can also afford to invest in those communities where endemic poverty has created conditions that racists exploit. It is often said ‘there is no money’. That’s a lie. There is money, it’s just being spent on the wrong things, or wasted on vanity projects and mismanagement.

The Irish people, so often migrants themselves and the victims of discrimination and injustice, must stand firm against the forces unleashed in Dublin last week. They can do that best by speaking up for migrants and the powerful role they have played in the making of modern Ireland.

But they must also send a clear signal to politicians that they must redouble their efforts to ensure everyone feels valued and that communities exploited by rightist ideologues are given tools to combat them.