Trade unionists join anti-racist campaign

Having been used to exporting our people (to Britain, the USA, Australia, Canada, etc.) the hysteria that was whipped up when a few thousand asylum seekers and immigrants came here was astounding. The papers were full of racist scaremongering. The worst example must be the The Star's "Refugee rapists on the rampage" headline (June 13th.)

Contrary to what some 'liberal' personalities would like us to think, racism is not new to Ireland. Jews fleeing the nazis were denied entry. Travellers have been subjected to racism by successive governments; left to live without water, electricity or rubbish collection; and treated as "failures".

Today we are seeing black people being abused and spat at, hate graffiti appearing on walls, and physical attacks. Already one hostel for asylum seekers in Dublin has been firebombed.

The government's response has been to make things even harder for asylum seekers; with the ending of the common travel area with Britain and the threat of mass deportations. While TDs like Ivor Calelly and Liam Lawlor get away with calling the vast majority of asylum seekers "bogus" and "criminal", the government responds by further victimising the victims.

All the major political parties (Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Democratic Left and the PDs) have been in power recently. They all agree to immigration controls (as contained in the Refugee Act). They all refused to provide proper facilities for Travellers. Yet they have no problem looking after beef barons like Larry Goodman and low pay employers like Ben Dunne.

They support the system that encourages racism by labelling Travellers and foreigners as a "problem". And it suits them well. Instead of people asking why a small minority enjoy massive profits, offshore bank accounts and tax amnesties, they want us to fight among ourselves over housing and welfare resources. Just like the way sectarianism in the North has divided working people and kept us weak.

Foreigners are being scapegoated to divert our attention away from the fact that the government is not tackling poverty, housing lists and hospital overcrowding. The fight against racism is tied up with the fight against poverty. Racists want us to compete against each other because we are a different colour. It certainly suits the bosses to keep us divided and not questioning why so many they have so much while the rest of us have so little.

The Anti-Racism Campaign was set up last year by refugees, asylum seekers and Irish people. It has been leafletting in areas where racist literature has been distributed & removing hate graffiti from walls, it started a confidential advice centre, and picketed Ivor Calelly TD when he refused to withdraw his lying remarks.

Now a trade union group has been set up to take the fight into our unions and workplaces. Resolutions are being prepared for conferences, and activists in different jobs are campaigning for anti-racist practices. A number of SIPTU members are involved and would welcome other colleagues. Details of meetings and activities can be obtained from the ARC trade union group c/o Comhlamh, 10 Upper Camden St., Dublin 2, or Patricia McCarthy at 01-8376875.

Alan MacSimóin


Correspondence to SIPTU Fightback, 22 Melrose Avenue, Dublin 3

To the SIPTU Fightback page