« | Home | »

Racial Profiling

Tags: |

Irish politicians have spent the last few years telling anyone who cares to listen that ‘Ireland is not Greece,’ but in some respects the country appears only too keen to imitate its fellow PIG. As soon as the news about ‘Maria’ made international headlines, concerned citizens were on the look-out for blonde-haired children living with Roma families; two children who matched the profile were taken into care by police in Dublin and Athlone before you could say ‘witch-hunt’.

When both children were returned to the people who were indeed their biological parents, the justice minister, Alan Shatter, insisted that the Gardaí had acted ‘in good faith’. In one case, the basis for their intervention seems to have been a tip-off from a TV3 reporter, Paul Connolly, which was itself based on a transparently racist Facebook message that spoke of ‘Romas robing [sic] them to get child benefit in Europe’ and offered no evidence of anything untoward other than physical appearance. (Connolly has form when it comes to the Irish Roma community: his 2011 documentary Ireland’s Bogus Beggars was described in the Irish Independent as ‘an embarrassing shambles, which shames TV3’.) Before the truth was revealed, TV3 ran a report boasting of its role in the affair, and referring to the child’s parents as ‘the people I suppose she understood to be her family’.

Displaying remarkable grace and dignity under the circumstances, the people she understood to be her family brought cups of tea and slices of cake to the journalists camped outside their home in west Dublin, waiting for the results of a DNA test. Britain’s Daily Star carried the media frenzy to its logical conclusion by suggesting that the girl might, in fact, prove to be Madeleine McCann (having already floated the same theory about ‘Maria’ on the other side of the continent).

Disappointed to learn that neither child had been the victim of kidnapping, the ‘I’m not racist, but…’ fraternity changed tack: social media have been well-stocked over the last few days with people insisting that the Gardaí would have acted in exactly the same way if they had received a call about a white Irish family whose child did not have the same colour hair as her parents (Shatter set the tone for this line of argument by suggesting that the police were ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’).

The Gardaí and the Health Services Executive are now investigating their own behaviour; a more illuminating report may come from Emily Logan, the children’s ombudsman, who has promised not to ‘rubber-stamp’ the internal inquiries. Government ministers have solemnly urged everyone not to jump to conclusions.

There has been little evidence of soul-searching on the part of the media, and it surely won’t be long before another courageous truthteller sharpens his pen to inform us about neighbourhoods that are ‘plagued’ by ‘Roma gypsies’. Irish journalism has long been dependent on ‘political correctness gone mad’ clichés imported from across the water, and can hardly be expected to do without them in these times of fiscal retrenchment.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement