REAL knowledge and true understanding are probably the best antidote to prejudice and hatred. They are certainly better than instantaneous judgement and blame.
Like most people I was surprised and stunned by what happened on the streets of Dublin last week. But I was disappointed at the speed of political condemnatory comment directed at gardaí and politicians. The rightful distaste of the immediacy of social commentary should also apply to political commentary around major events.
A few days, perhaps even a week, that allows space and substance to the events themselves, is a good and proper political practice. Immediate condemnation and criticism of people or organisations that were not responsible for the events only distracts from those who were responsible and demeans the importance of politics, giving the impression that it is only a battle for supremacy among political parties.
Up to recently and even after the Dublin riots, it is possible to be proud of how Ireland has responded to the migrant issue. There is a deep understanding and empathy among most Irish people. Irish people read and talk and debate and have a deep understanding of what it is to have to leave your own country, to make a better life in a foreign land.
- Why we must stand up for the rights of migrants – Patricia Mac Bride
- Multi-cultural society benefits Ireland
- The Irish News view: It is utterly reprehensible that one appalling crime – a stabbing attack on children – was exploited by those who were intent only on wreaking destruction
That is not to ignore that there is also a vein of racism and xenophobia in Ireland. How large and how organised it already is, or just a phenomenon of social media, is still unclear. But it is most likely that there is going to be a battle for supremacy among these two aspects of Ireland.
Whoever or whatever introduced me to the knowledge that most European countries had colonised and plundered many parts of the world also warned that those actions would one day come back to bite the more northern parts of the world. The poverty and the social and cultural destruction that is the legacy of that imperial history would inevitably result in vast population movement of people from the southern part of the world to Europe, America and richer parts of the world. Ireland saw a little of that history played out on the streets of Dublin for a time last week.
The population movement has been happening for some time now. England thought it could solve it by leaving the European Union. The result is that it has lessened the number of people coming from Europe but increased the numbers arriving from other parts of the world. France increases and hardens its policing response and Holland probably elected its first far-right prime minister. The reality is that immigration is now the number one item on the political agenda of every European country.
There are no easy or quick answers but sending people to Rwanda on a plane or militarising the gardaí are no answers at all. Ireland is basically a Celtic country, and one of the better characteristics of the Celts was that they had no interest in colonising other countries. Add to that the predictions of most economists that if Ireland is to sustain its economic success, it is necessary to increase its population. It is incidental but interesting that Scotland is trying to attract more immigrants.
- John Manley: Historically the Republic has been largely free of far-right ideology but racism is on the rise
- Irish News columnist Patricia Mac Bride on witnessing 'sinister' riots and community spirit
- 'I am an immigrant and I was there to protect Irish people' - Deliveroo driver from Brazil intervenes in knife attack
It should not be forgotten that it is possible to weaponise knowledge, to make it one of the cutting edges that confronts and overpowers those who use slogans and historical ignorance as the basis of their anger and hatred.
Ignorance fears knowledge and truth. The confrontation is more likely to have impact when all the major state and religious institutions devote some of their energy to the project. It was done very successfully in Ireland during the centenary commemorations of the state and, to some degree, during Covid.
People who are prejudiced and ignorant are still human beings and will mostly bend the knee and their prejudices to the authority and convictions of a community that understands its own and other people’s history.