Irish suffering in Britain is more than just racist jokes

 

HAVE you heard the story of the Irish woman who was refused a job in Boots because she was likely to get homesick? Or the one about the Post Office asking an Irish man if he had a drink problem during an interview? And what about the Irish student who was refused a place on a degree course because of her nationality?

According to a new report, Discrimination and the Irish community in Britain, published yesterday by the Commission of Racial Equality, these cases are typical and illustrate the extent of the racial discrimination Irish people suffer in Britain.

Although the victims in these cases have successfully sued for racial discrimination, the chairman of the CRE, Sir Herman Ouseley, accused the British media of treating Irish racism as a joke. "We are not interested in humour and comedy, we are interested in harassment and humiliation," he said.

According to the report, Irish people, estimated to form 4.6 per cent of the population in Britain, are stereotyped as "being feckless, drunks and fraudsters". The two year study revealed that the pattern of the Irish community's development echoes that of the AfroCaribbean's.

A majority of Irish people live in poor rented accommodation, do not own a car and suffer from a high rate of unemployment. Irish men living in Britain are the only migrant group whose mortality is higher in Britain than in their country of origin.

Concluding that Irish people feel a "powerful sense of hurt and unjustified exclusion from an equal place in British society", the report urges the British government to recognise the Irish as a separate ethnic minority.

According to the report, 79 per cent of Irish people have been subject to abusive and insulting anti Irish jokes and remarks. With the level of Irish racism being worryingly high in the criminal justice system, Irish people have frequently been abused by the police and claim they have been treated differently in court because of their accents.

One Irish woman in her 20s stated that during the World Cup the police were particularly abusive. "Late at night, the police stopped one friend and arrested him because of his accent. They told him they didn't have to have a reason to take him in. In Holloway road, the police have been in after the World Cup and ordered everyone out of the pub at the end of the match. If you asked `Why?' as the police herded you out, you were immediately picked up," she said.

A Northern Irish man told the report that police officers from Kentish Town, north London, would hang around the local Irish pubs waiting until closing time and then hurl abuse as the clients left.

"They were abusive, calling us `Paddy bastards'. We weren't charged with anything, they just abused us on the streets. They used to stop Irish people coming out of pubs and abuse them," he recalled.

Several Irish people complained their legitimate complaints to the police were not taken seriously, while others claimed they were treated unfairly.

One Irish man, in his 30s, said he was ridiculed after being stopped by the police for having no insurance or MOT.

"The judge was totally baffled by my accent. I was trying to explain and he couldn't get out of his mind asking me where I was from. He looked at me and said: `Irish, are you sure? With an accent like that you ought to be West Indian.' He was totally taken away from the idea of the case. All the court laughed and so did the police," he stated.

The report stated anti Irish hostility would dramatically increase alter an IRA atrocity. At airports and ports, Irish people would be stopped, questioned and held for several hours under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

In shops, work and the pub, Irish people stated they feel ostracised and are abused or physically threatened following a bomb attack. According to the report, they deal with the situation by "becoming invisible", avoiding contact with British people and suffering in silence.

"It is dreadful really. I've been put out of shops down the West End. A lady panicked and sent for her husband. He came downstairs and threw me out of the shop. I could have done something about it, but what is the point? Even mates that I work with have blanked me. Mates in the pub come out with comments like `Bloody Irish murderers, they should all be shot'," said one Irish man, living in Islington.