Irish group considers complaint over ‘racist’ cartoon in Australia

Image in The West Australian depicts Irish nurses doing a jig with a leprechaun

A group claiming to speak on behalf of some Irish people living in Australia is preparing an official complaint over a cartoon in an Australian newspaper which they claim is a "racist" depiction of Irish nurses.

The cartoon by Dean Alston, printed in The West Australian newspaper yesterday, shows four Irish nurses and a leprechaun doing a jig at the bedside of two patients.

The Facebook group Irish People Living in Australia (IPLA), which has more than 30,000 followers, has written to the editor of the newspaper saying they are "absolutely disgusted with the racist message conveyed in the image".

The 14 administrators of the page, who are based in Ireland and around Australia, have requested an apology on behalf of their followers "for this ill-mannered and offensive cartoon". If an apology is not issued by 9am tomorrow morning Irish time, they will make an official complaint to the Australian Press Council, they said.


“We are sick and tired of constantly being referred to with these stereotypes,” the email concluded.

Within minutes of sending the email, the administrators claim they received a response from Mr Alston implying the cartoon was meant to be funny. “Most Irish people I know have a great sense of humour. I’m Irish. I should know,” he said.

A spokesman for IPLA said several of their followers had contacted them today to say they had already made complaints to the Australian Press Council over the cartoon.

Recruitment of Irish nurses

The controversy follows a row over the recent recruitment of 150 Irish nurses by the St John of God Healthcare group in Western Australia, which the Australian Nursing Federation has said unfairly prioritises the employment of foreign nurses over Australians.

The West Australia newspaper reported earlier this week that the positions were being filled by Irish nurses because of a predicted shortage of qualified nurses to fill positions at their three new hospitals, due to open in the next 18 months.

Around 30 Irish nurses have already travelled to work at two of the St John’s hospitals in Western Australia, with the rest due to arrive before the group’s new Midland hospital opens in 18 months.

Secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation Mark Olson told The West Australian that there was a looming shortage of nurses, but warned employers not to rely on foreign nurses as a quick fix.

“I object to overseas nurses being seen as a first resort, rather than a last resort,” he said. “It’s short-sighted if employers are constantly looking to poor economies when they can pick up graduates in Australia.”

Mr Olsen said up to 300 graduate nurses were unemployed and many others were underemployed after having hours cut from rosters.

This article was amended to correct an error on August 18th.

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine