government indifference fans flames of racism

The following article by Eoin Ó Murchú was first published in Unity, the weekly publication of the Irish Communist Party.

RACISM reared its ugly head again this week, when the inevitable verdict came in in the Ashling Murphy murder case.  The evidence was overwhelming and public opinion solidly welcomed the verdict.

Ashling Murphy was a young teacher, very talented by all the accounts, and was murdered in an extremely brutal fashion in broad daylight as she went for a jog along the canal in Tullamore.

The man who murdered her was a Slovak immigrant, Jozef Puska, 33, who came to Ireland ten years ago. 

He has a young family of five children, but perpetrated this vile crime on a young woman he didn’t know.

Puska originally worked in the building trade, but suffered an accident at work which left him unable to work. 

He had social welfare, and a social house provided by the council.

Racists immediately latched on to the fact that he is an immigrant to denounce immigrants in general and ask why such a man was able to live off state support.

The facts, of course, are that while each act of violence, especially fatal violence, against women is to be deplored, the majority of these heinous crimes are committed by native born Irish people. 

Being an immigrant has nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, in his victim impact statement Ashling’s boyfriend, Ryan Casey, raised these very points.

He asked how can someone come to this country, get social housing, social welfare, not hold down a job of any description and never contribute to society for 10 years?

It is understandable that someone suffering the direct grief of Mr Ryan, and the Murphy family, could express themselves in this way, but Puska did work in Ireland until his industrial accident.

What is inexcusable is not Mr Ryan’s outpouring of grief and anger, but the way that racists have jumped on the context to try and justify their warped view of immigrants and immigration.

There are evil people who are immigrants, and there are evil people who are native born.  Ashling Murphy died not because she met an immigrant, but because she met a man who apparently believed that women were there for whatever any man wanted.

Nevertheless, in a society where homelessness continues to go up, where native born are treated as down the priority list, at least as compared to Ukrainian refugees, there is obviously fertile ground for racists to exploit.

If the social problems of homelessness, evictions and all the misery and stress attached to them were properly addressed by the government, then this ground would not exist.

But the government insists on prioritising private profit over public need, and that leaves the vacuum which racists exploit.

Basically, the government is indifferent to the problems which its policies are creating for the ordinary citizens, while they are happy to posture before the world as more supportive of Ukraine than anyone else, and more open to asylum seekers.

At no stage has the government attempted to play a role to address the problems which cause people to seek asylum elsewhere, or to promote peace.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. 

A good example is what is happening in Rosslare, in county Wexford.

Rosslare Harbour is a small community of about 2,000 people.

 It welcomed 300 asylum seekers, mainly Ukrainian, and worked enthusiastically to integrate them into their community.

Now, the government which has created insuperable problems for its elf in providing accommodation has decided to lodge another four hundred asylum seekers in the village. 

That means that the percentage of immigrants will rise from one seventh to one third, while services such as those of a GP are already under massive pressure.

And the site chosen is one that was earmarked for a long campaigned for and much needed nursing home for older people who need such care.

There is a backlash against this – not from a community that is racist as its previous energy in welcoming immigrants shows, but one that is being treated with contempt.

Again, if problems like these are not addressed with the needs of local communities in mind then the road is left open for racism and the ugliness of division.

Instead, we need a government that works not to improve profits but to improve the quality of life, for native born and immigrant together .

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