Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

15 October 1998 Edition

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Television: No blacks please, we're Irish

Leargas (RTE)
Newsnight (BBC2)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Channel 4)
Warning From History (BBC1)
Prominent American racist and white supremacist David Duke once lamented that Iceland was the last remaining ``pure white'' country in the world, but alas he omitted the Emerald Isle.

That didn't stop us being labelled the ``white niggers'' after thousands were shipped to the Caribbean as slaves by Cromwell.

Unfortunately, many Irish were also involved in the noxious quagmire of Imperialism of the British Empire, wherein lie the seeds of much of European racism, when we attempted to bring the three C's to the ``uncivilised'' Africans - Christianity, capitalism and civilisation.

The above topic was expanded on in a hard hitting ``Leargas'' documentary on RTE last week. It opened with a re-enactment of a vicious assault on a heavily pregnant African woman in Dublin recently - to exacerbate her predicament, the squinting windows and motorists refused to come to her aid. This experience is an increasing phenomenon among asylum seeking refugees in Ireland as opposition to them and outright hostility increases.

Despite the fact that refugees represent only 0.1% of our population and that Germany and Italy accomodates 1,000 refugees for every one in the Free State, there is now a refusal rate of 87% for those seeking political asylum and those seeking to eke out a modest living through economic asylum.

A number of anthropologists were wheeled forward to offer differing theories for the increase in racism here, including the Empire mentality and the notion that foreigners (outsiders) will somehow taint our native culture - this paranoid fear still grips many, according to Seamus O'Siochain, university anthropologist.

With little funds the Irish Refugee Council has been lending an ear to refugees and listening to the tales of racial assaults, insults, intimidation and foul language. Nicholas Cruz, the Cuban boxing coach, went so far as to say that he is strongly reconsidering a move here for his family as the ``situation has worsened dramatically in the last number of years''.

Unfortunately this situation has been made worse by a media keen to paint a picture of an impending invasion of Romanian gypsies and pickpockets.

The government has now begun to consistently refuse a place of refuge to the vast majority of refugees, safe in the knowledge that they have the support of the bulk of the Irish people and votes certainly won't be lost. It is a sad indictment of ourselves that we allow this to continue.

Over on BBC2's Newsnight the PR man of Manchester City Police was busy trying to repair the image of his force after his Chief Constable had admitted that ``institutional racism'' was present in the force, an acknowledgement campaigned for by the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence for the last five years, and by the victims of PTA legislation.

While some are satisfied that it is belatedly being acknowledged, others continue to promote the line that ``it's just a few bad apples''. Similar sentiments have been expressed by successive RUC Chief Constables, no strangers to racism. Will the forces of ``Law and Order'' now stand up and admit they are also sexist and homophobic?

The informative but ``look at us we're so intellectual'' news programme also focused on the issue of political party fundraising in light of the recent Neill Report, which attempts to spur the government to put a cap on excessive spending (Labour recently spent £250,000 on a by election, which works out at over £8 per vote), questionable donations and secrecy.

Big business is now playing a bigger part in stuffing the coffers of the establishment, with a contribution from Seeboard Electric recently guaranteeing them ``contact with MPs and MEPs'' of squeaky clean Labour.

What is of more concern however is the influence of big business over the media - one need only look at the right wing views espoused by the Murdoch and O'Reilly Empires to see a parallel with actions of the politicians.

Back in the land of racial supremacy, BBC2's ``A Warning From History'' revealed an oft forgotten fact that one in five of the Polish population perished during World War II, as Hitler perfected Cromwell's ``To Hell or to Connacht'' strategy.

Hitler's policy was revealing in that he didn't directly order mass executions, but rather left it to the commander of each area to ``Germanise'' the populace.

Some preferred to rape, pillage, murder and hang the local Poles ``with rocks tied to their feet as the local SS band struck up a lively tune'', while others simply reclassified thousands of residents as German, saving time, money and most importantly many lives.

For footage alone, this series deserves a viewing.

Over on Channel 4's new ``Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'' series, they were promising their own golden age of cinema, to rival the 70s of Scorsese's ``Taxi Driver'', Coppolla's ``The Godfather'' and the blockbusting ``Jaws'' and ``Star Wars'', when most of Hollywood ``was strung out on Coke, but still managed to produce great movies''. Our presenter brings us to a petrol station, which has been built on the birthplace of the late and great Alfred Hitchcock, whose centenary is being commemorated by a Hollywood rehash of his movies, including Dial M for Murder, starring Michael Douglas.

Jimmy Stewart is being substituted by the paralysed Christopher Reeve in a rehash of ``Rear Window'' and the new ``Psycho'' doesn't even have a bulge in his Adam's Apple.

So far my own favourite ``The Birds'' hasn't been tampered with, maybe for fear of the evil seagulls and crows who might come and pluck their eyes out and feed them to their young!

By Sean O Donaile

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1