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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #82 - The Folly of Racism - Citizenship Referendum:Politicians played the race card and most workers were fooled

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 18 Sep 2004 10:54:11 +0200 (CEST)


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Racism is alive and well in Ireland. Only the very dishonest or the
very naive can deny it. We all knew it was bad, we only had to listen
to our friends, neighbours and workmates. We only had to look at
how generations of Travellers were treated. But the result of the
citizenship referendum really opened our eyes to how widespread it is.
The referendum was carried by 4:1 (79.17% to 20.83%). An RTE exit
poll of over 3,000 voters taken immediately after voting ended
indicated that 36% voted Yes because the country was being
"exploited by immigrants" and a further 27% voted Yes because there
were "too many immigrants". That's 2 out of 3 Yes voters giving an
explicitly racist reason for their vote.

To conclude that all these voters across the country are hardened
racists would be silly. The handful of self-proclaimed anti-immigrant
campaigners standing in the local elections got a pathetically small
vote.

But there is a "soft" racism out there. The Yes vote said that some
children are less equal than others - because of where their parents
come from. To treat someone worse because of their race is racism.
It's that simple.

The referendum arguments got lost and deliberately confused in a
mess of jargon and lies: of 'non-national babies' 'flooding' our
hospitals; irrelevant EU cases; allegations of 'citizenship tourism' and
'abuse' of 'liberal' Irish citizenship laws. The government didn't have
to win these arguments. It was enough to raise them.

And this was nothing new. Over the last ten years the parties in
power have been consistantly blaming refugees and asylum seekers
for everything. Faced with anger at the terrible state of our health care
system or the housing crises the government convienently deflects
the blame from themselves - the true culprits - and instead point the
finger at the 'hoards' of invading asylum seekers.

Thanks to government lies, most people in Ireland today would be
surprised to learn that in fact only 14.7% of those who immigrate to
Ireland are asylum seekers1. Instead of allowing asylum seekers to
work, and become really integrated into Irish society, the government
prefers to isolate and marginalise them.

Sucessive governments' campaigns to scapegoat asylum seekers have
resulted in widespread ignorance about immigration. Rumours that
immigrants get priority on the housing list and get higher welfare
payments are accepted as fact. To some, everyone from Africa or
Asia is an asylum-seeker and everything they have must come from
social welfare. That they might be on work permits, or student visas,
or even be Irish doesn't seem to get a thought. And the government
has no interest in correcting this.

In Northern Ireland in recent times, there has been a marked increase
in violent racist attacks. It's not coincidental that this happened when
politicians and newspaper editors were demonising asylum seekers.

It's all about divide and rule. Rulers keep the majority in their place by
dividing and playing us off against each other. We gain absolutely
nothing from racism, just a false feeling of superiority to distract us
while the rich get richer and the rest of us struggle to build a
reasonable life for ourselves and our children.

The important difference is not between white and black (or
Protestant and Catholic), but between rulers and ruled. Instead of
looking for scapegoats, it would make a lot more sense for working
people of all colours to get together, end the rule of the millionaires
and make the world a better place for all of us.

Footnotes

1. 2002. The Needs of Asylum Seekers in Cork, Cork: NASC, The
Irish Immigrant Support Centre

This article was first posted to indymedia.ie and you can read the
discussion it generated at
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=66316

See also

* Refugees & Asylum seekers in Ireland
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/refugee.html
* Anarchism and Anti - Racism in Ireland
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/racism.html
===============================
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Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
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Print out the PDF file of this issue
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