In July of this year the government managed to convince 79% of the people who voted to pass a referendum which restricted the rights of some children born in this country to Irish citizenship. We helped campaign against the citizenship referendum on the grounds that to deny someone citizenship based on the fact that their parents were immigrants was racist and unjust. We also feared that that, if passed, the referendum would encourage racists and bring about a climate where they were likely to be more active.
Unfortunately that's turned out to be exactly what has happened. The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) has been compiling statistics on racist incidents since May 2001 and they reported an increase in both the number and seriousness of incidents during and after the referendum campaign. Racist incidents reported to the NCCRI had previously been running at the rate of about 47 every six months. Four months into this year that figure had already been passed and the nature of the incidents has been getting worse.
People have been literally run out of their homes and the areas they settled in. A black couple in Dublin had their windows smashed and the woman of the house, who was alone at the time, had to flee over her back wall into her neighbour's house when the attackers broke into her home. The same thing happened to a Pakistani woman who was alone with her child. She fled her home but was followed by three men and verbally and physically abused. African shopkeepers in Cork have had racist threats daubed on their buildings and all around the republic the number of racist incidents is on the increase.
Meanwhile north of the border the incidents are even more serious, with some of the attacks being linked to elements within Loyalist paramilitary groups. People have suffered punishment beating style attacks while their homes have been burned out with petrol bombs. People who previously focused their hatred on members of a different religious group now have a new focus, people from different countries. Families and individuals from Portugal, India, Africa, China, the Philippines and Eastern Europe have all suffered. To add to the problem the fascist White Nationalist Party has started organising in the North.
Both North and South the hatred is reflected, and often driven by institutionalised State racism. It's no coincidence that racist incidents and attacks go up when the governments of both states attack the evils of supposed 'maternity tourists' and 'illegal immigrants'. Indeed in many of the incidents in the Republic attackers taunted their victims, telling them to 'pack their bags' and claiming that they'd be run out of the country after the referendum. So-called respectable politicians and media demonise and criminalise immigrants, they try to claim that immigrants are responsible for the terrible state of our health services and for housing shortages when the truth is that these problems are the result of government policy and morally bankrupt political parties.
We believe that racism must be confronted from a working class perspective. We urge working class communities to mobilise against racism and believe that the only long-term solution is for people in working class communities to come together, around common interests, and to fight alongside each other for better housing, facilities and the things that are needed by all of us. The bosses want us to be at each other's throats so that they can continue to exploit all of us. Let's not do their job for them.
This edition is No83 published in November 2004
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