Irish in Australia respond to ‘brassy Irish scrubbers’ newspaper article
Satirical column in Brisbane Times causes ‘disbelief and huge disappointment’ as police continue search for Irish tourists accused of fraud
A satirical article in the Brisbane Times which described a "foreign crime wave" in the city, perpetrated by "brassy Irish scrubbers", was "in poor taste" and has caused "disappointment" in the Irish community in Australia.
Paddy Farrelly, co-ordinator of the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland, has responded to an article by columnist John Birmingham, which described the perpetrators as "brassy Irish scrubbers" who scammed free meals by claiming to have found glass or hair in them, and shoplifted goods into “nappy bags on their robbery prams”.
Insurance fraud by “Shifty McGintys and Slippery O’Tooles with their sneaky afternoon cold calls ‘about that car accident you were but recently involved to be sure, to be sure’ ", was also mentioned in the piece, which appeared in Birmingham’s Blunt Instrument column.
“There has been a less than happy reaction to it,” Farrelly said. “People are quite shocked and there is a lot of disbelief and huge disappointment that in this day and age people, are still having to put up with this kind of stuff.”
The column comes in the wake of media reports about a number of Irish tourists who are believed to be “working in groups” and are accused of scams, fraud and theft on Australia’s east coast.
Queensland police have released images of a number of men and women who they say are “all believed to be tourists from Ireland”, who have been engaged in criminal behaviour including shoplifting, fraud and providing sub-standard service or failing to show up to complete paid-for maintenance jobs.
In the Brisbane Times column, Birmingham, a British-born Australian author, also referred to “scheming boyos”, who “ clog up innocent Australian toilets with large tonnages of potatoes. To what end I could not tell you, since the Irish do not wash their potatoes before boiling them, preferring the natural gravy that a thick layer of soil adds to the cooking pot”.
“The thing about the potato is a constant burr in the side of any Irish person in Australia, ” Farrelly said. “They don’t mean any harm by it, but they don’t know the Famine history that’s related to it.”
“Even if it was intended as satire, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, it still went too far, it crossed a line. My feeling is that it was in poor taste and it should have been reviewed by a few sets of eyes before it was published.”
Farrelly received an email on Tuesday that he believes sums up the feeling of many who read the article, which was published on Monday.
“As an Irish professional living and working in Australia, I was extremely hurt and disappointed that such a derogatory article about the Irish would be published in the Brisbane Times this morning. This is racist, slanderous and has an element of colonial bigotry,” it said.
The woman who sent the email said she had made an official complaint about the newspaper column to the Australian Press Council.
“The vast majority of Irish people in Australia, and Irish Australians, have a very good life and a very good relationship,” said Farrelly, who has been in Australia for five years and is originally from Kells, Co Meath.
“It’s been distressing enough over the last week or two while this band of louts has been misbehaving, quite badly,” he said on ABC Radio Brisbane in an interview on Tuesday night.
“I understand what John was doing here, having a go at the Border Force, and let’s face it , that’s fair game. But there’s issues like mentions of the bogmen and stuff like that ,and barrow-wights.
“These are all things that have been used in the past in various places to denigrate the Irish, and people do have sensitivities to these things, and just because we are white and we speak English and we assimilate, doesn’t mean that this is ok.”