Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – Racism In Ireland / Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter and that is a powerful statement. It has made us look at ourselves, which is good. Unfortunately, we have not come up trumps with the message of that statement. I have experienced first-hand the racism of Irish people in my constituency office. They might not see it as racism but there is racism in the statements they make, such as saying that people of colour get better treatment and so on. Unfortunately, that is the sentiment that comes up and one has to challenge that every time it arises because that is the only way one can deal with it.

I have been encouraged by the fact that the Irish people who are campaigning on Black Lives Matter are linking it to what we are doing in this State. That makes a serious difference to how people’s lives are impacted here. The linking of it to direct provision and the use of Shannon Airport by the American war machine is encouraging. It is a pity we could not extend it to this House as well.

Unfortunately, we are not a tolerant society and saying we are is sadly not true and also leads to minimising the issue. If laws were all that were needed, we would be way ahead. Ireland would be a great country if this issue was based only on laws. Sadly, we need more than laws to ensure we defeat racism in our society. Racism has been present in this House and we have seen that in recent years. It has also played a part in some Members winning a seat here, even a member of the Government. It may not have been as blatant as some of the comments but the intention is the same, namely to make political gain out of people’s differences. We need to change the way that this House looks and we must wait for elections to sort this House out but it is within the grasp of this House to make sure the Oireachtas as a whole is representative of Ireland. The three parties that are forming a Government can ensure the Seanad is representative of the country as a whole by appointing Travellers and Irish people of colour to the House to give a voice to those communities.

It is not only for blacks or Travellers to provide a voice for themselves, however. We must be representative of all the people in our community in this House as well. The most important contribution we can make is to ensure no person suffers because of what we say or do here. We should be intolerant of racism in all its forms here and then we can have legitimacy in challenging it in our society.

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