Is it cos I is Irish?

Reporting a nonsensical charge of racism between a Conservative Councillor and a union rep of Irish extraction, the Telegraph has allowed its online readership to revel in an orgy of Irish-bashing jokes. I’m not for one minute surprised.

The councillor in question made a harmless Irish joke in the general direction of a Unison rep, who has since taken things rather too far, involving a conciliation tribunal and thousands of pounds in compensation. (Personally, if a Tory public representative made an anti-Irish comment in my general direction, I’d respond with every word on the BBC’s no-no list and end in a flourish of complex hand gestures. I would not run to ACAS seeking reparation).

I don’t believe the councillor was being racist in the true sense of the word. Vaguely xenophobic, certainly. And possibly stereotypical of many conservative people of a certain age. But I don’t think the interchange was deserving of a compensation claim, which is ultimately paid for by the British taxpayer.

However, (and there’s always an ‘however’ with the Torygraph), in his discussion of the story, the Telegraph’s Douglas Murray has opened the paper to charges of bigotry. In the online version of the paper, the 70-plus comments that follow his piece form a litany of anti-Irish jokes, some gentle, some just plain nasty.

And they’ve been on the Telegraph’s site for four days now.

I don’t want to claim any form of racism here – after all, are we Irish a separate race? I would ask the following question though: if you were to replace the word “Irish” in all of these jokes the Telegraph feels are okay to display on its site with any other nationality or indeed racial group, would the story be still available on the internet?

I doubt it.

Does this mean the Irish are a soft target, unlike some religious or racial groups? Or more positively, does it mean that the social position of the Irish in Britain is now so much improved on the “Paddy off the boat” image of the past that people feel these jokes are no longer offensive? There are no more “No Blacks, No Irish” signs in the boarding houses, and there are many MPs and successful business professionals born of Irish parents in Britain.

The Irish no longer represent a form of underclass in this country and that can only be a good thing. However, perhaps some of these readers need a gentle reminder that it’s not that long ago that an Irish passport precluded you from the social success that is now enjoyed by contemporary Irish immigrants.

  1. Perhaps it’s better over there. I like your balance “replace Irish with another” and see how that turns.

    “Paddy off the boat” is still relevant. As 2nd generation American, I both *enjoy* some kind of non-homogeneity yet also feel put downs. Maybe in Boston, NYC and Chicago, Irish-Americans have enough power to push back (or preempt) but around here, the only worse thing to be is: black, Mexican or Jewish. Oh, hang on. I *am* Jewish on mum’s side.

    The hating Mexicans thing has only come into play (in MO) the past 10 years-one of my uncles married a Mexican lady and we never heard “boo.”

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    1. The “in” and “out” groups are different wherever you go. In Germany, it’s the Turkish ‘gastarbeiters’; in the Netherlands, it’s Moroccans. But the story is always the same.

      I think jokes that belittle a particular group – be it based on gender, sexual orientation or nationality – tell a lot more about the joke-teller than the group in question. I was pretty taken aback by how the comments on the Telegraph piece quickly descended from complaints about silly compensation claims to outright hostility.

      It’s still there. You just have to let these people feel safe for a moment and they let their real views slip out.

      Scary stuff.

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  2. I agree that the charge of racism is silly, at best – more likely ignorant because as you said, Irish is a nationality, not a racial group. This reminds me of all the protests about District 9, banned in Nigeria over charges of “racism”, even though Nigerians are not a seperate race within Africa.

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    1. Quite. I cringe when I hear people refer to racism when race is just not a factor in the situation.

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      1. Bigotry is always ugly.

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  3. Good point MT, here it’s all relative, the Irish immigrants are the established ones and it’s “them Hispanics” that are hated where we are. Of course we’re all Americans at this point but some Hispanic folks are fleeing back to Puerto Rico because this part of the country is pretty bad in every way.

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  4. The article in question is not so upsetting, however, it is the manner in which Mr. Murray uses his platform to request his readers to spew their anti-Irish jokes. This is so unacceptable and discriminatory towards Irish people. I wrote to The Daily Telegraph and complained about the article, I received a written response from The Daily Telegraph today which said Mr. Murray’s blog was legitimate (a copy of the letter can be supplied).

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  5. Good points raised here. Many thanks for that, however I also want to thank for something else. I suffer from color blindness (tritanopia to be precise). I use Safari browser (not sure if that is important), and a large number of sites are challenging to read as a result of a poor range of colors employed ithe design. In your case, as the choice of colours is fine, the website is quite clear and simple to understand. I am not sure whether it was a deliberate and mindful deed, or simply the ‘luck of the draw’, but nevertheless, I thank you.

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  6. I like it. That’s toooooo . . . . . Funny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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  7. Nice post. plz keep on posting.

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