Where has the R word gone?

I write this having learnt that taxi driver Moses Ayanwole, originally from Nigeria, and brutally attacked by a white passenger in Pearse street, has died of his injuries. I write this with rage not only at the senseless murder, but also at the refusal by politicians and the mainstream media to use the racism word to describe it. We heard nothing from the Minister of Justice or any other senior politician. And on RTE’s Morning Ireland the representative of the taxi federation spoke about the need to install CCTV cameras in taxis but not about the issues faced by black African taxi drivers, who experience daily racism from white colleagues and passengers alike. There was nothing about many taxi ranks carrying ‘Irish drivers only’ notices, or about passengers refusing to get into taxis with black drivers, not to speak of the litany of racial slurs and insults.

This murder puts further flames onto recent racist fires. In Naas we had mayor Darren Scully who made the decision to refuse representation to black Africans based on what he described as their “aggressive” attitude when making representations to him, but who insensitively argues that he ‘abhors racism in all its forms’, adding that he had many African friends (not realising this is one of the most common ‘I am not a racist’ but ploys). And in Athlone, a 16 year old black girl was raped by a group of white boys, including one white girl, in an attacked described by the Evening Herald a ‘race rape of girl (16)’ – at least they used the R word, but one wondered whether the reason is sensationalism or accurate reporting.

It’s been only two years since Toyosi Shitta-Bey was murdered in Tirrelstown – his murderers only just brought to justice (at least it didn’t take the Gardai as long as it took the London Metropolitan Police to try black teenager Stephen Lawrence’s white murderers, murdered in 1993 and tried in 2011).

It’s necessary to point out yet again how difficult it is to speak about racism in post-race Ireland. And it’s not only because of the recession – the difficulty to mention the R word has been on the increase ever since the twilight of Celtic capitalism. Note for instance President Higgins’ inaugural speech which made not one mention to immigrants, immigration, interculturalism or integration – and that from one of Ireland’s strongest supporters of human rights causes.

At the same time Minister Alan Shatter – despite his strong support for the integration of immigrants while in opposition – is keeping away from events organised by migrants and ethnic minorities. Interestingly, despite opposing the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act, Shatter has done nothing to review this ineffectual piece of legislation. This murder should give him a reason to do so.

And importantly, on the morning of Moses Ayanwole’s death there was yet another deportation of what the government deems ‘failed’ asylum seekers, this time to Pakistan. The issue of asylum seekers and direct provision hostels has indeed gone well under the radar – it seems no one in austerity Ireland – including Irish human rights, antiracism and immigrant support NGOs – wants to know.

I was delighted, however, by the initiative of a group of African leaders who got together to speak up against the increase of racism. While rightly demanding that the government acts against racism, it is ultimately up to them to express their seething anger and protest against racist Ireland. And they have my full support.