Tag Archive for racism

No “Caravan of Love” for Connors in Donnybrook

Actor, Republican and filmmaker John Connors on the Late Late Show

This morning I re-watched the journalistic car crash that was the John Connors interview on Friday’s Late Late Show.

As John – an actor, Republican and filmmaker, who also happens to be a Traveller – went toe to toe, the interview quickly stopped being about John’s heritage or Ryan’s privilege, and instead became about those who weren’t there at all.

And it is in how we treat those who are not present that we learn where we are as a society in relation to our prejudices; Ireland may have made progress in recent years, but the conservative Catholic ethos still remains.

There is still a hierarchy, and it is slavishly adhered to by many in the media.

Take Paul Williams, a man who apparently told John Connors on film that as an ethnic group, Travellers bear a collective responsibility for criminality in their ranks.

Now in case you need it clarified for you, ascribing collective guilt is one of the oldest and most racist statements one can possibly make.

For instance, by that logic all Irish people bear responsibility for the campaign of bombing that tore through the British mainland in the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

By Williams’ racist logic we also bear responsibility for things like apartheid and the Crusades, given that the majority of Irish people are white and nominally Christian.

But John wasn’t even allowed to bring up what Williams said on the public record and why?

Because “he’s not here to defend himself.”

The same was then said of the local authorities that moved quickly to block the movement of any Travellers onto their land following the Carrickmines fire, in which ten people died.

Then, breathtakingly, Ryan asked John why publicans weren’t in a hurry to serve Travellers alcohol.

So the integrity of neither Williams nor local authorities may be questioned, but Ryan had no problem inferring that Travellers – who, let it be said, also weren’t there to defend themselves – are violent drunks.

Even John’s own experience of racism was questioned, as was his anger towards the system and the society that has not only allowed it to fester, but has in many cases actively encouraged it.

Here’s some of the tweets that were made on the Late Late hashtags during the interview – ranging from openly racist to simple, yet staggeringly ignorant, this is what Ryan believes John has little or no reason to be angry about.

In insinuating that Travellers as an ethnic group are violent drunks or criminals and that they deserve that reputation, Ryan is kowtowing to the racist logic of the sensationalist Williams, but of course, this cannot be discussed.

Because imagine if Williams did what Iona and John Waters and Breda O’Brien did when they were called homophobes by Rory O’Neill on the Saturday Night Show?

What if he sued? How much would it cost? What would that do to Ryan’s career?

Notice nobody asks what would happen if a Traveller sued, as in our society they are granted no standing. Williams can say what he likes – even if it’s racist, or even if it tars Sinn Féin’s voters as terrorists, for instance – but he cannot be called racist for making racist statements on the public record.

This is the legacy of Pantigate, it is what columnist (note: not journalist) Breda O’Brien, journalist and former member of the Broadcasting Authority John Waters and the Iona Institute in general, whose fear of homosexuality is the very definition of homophobia, have left us.

(As both are based on fear, being homophobic or racist are not necessarily bad things in themselves – it is the repression of and the imposition of one’s own values on others, and the denial of the rights of others that is reprehensible.)

Irish voters have in recent times indicated that they are abandoning the vicious, venal, hateful and judgemental attitudes fostered by the church and implemented for generations by politicians as they divided and conquered and created hierarchies that suited themselves.

But as yet the system itself has not changed – The Lads are still in control, and despite the fact that they are a minority, the likes of Iona still call the shots.

Every time they call the lawyers in, journalists jump and eventually they toe the line. When “they” are not there to defend themselves, the lawyers will do it for them, and as a result the questions can’t even be put.

Maybe John and the family of those who died in Carrickmines should call the Iona lawyers and see what can be done about the imposition of collective guilt and responsibility on Travellers, or Muslims, or Africans, or anyone else.

My guess is very little.

Irish media doesn’t tell the truth to power.

Instead, cowed by the fear of legal proceedings, it restricts itself to telling the truth that power wants people to hear.

 

Can we talk about racism yet, Sweden?

I’ve been here long enough to know confronting things head-on is not the done thing, but it’s already too late.

We need to talk about racism, Sweden.

Not just the big-picture, Jimmie-and-the-bootboys racism of the Sweden Democrats, or the lurch to the right of the not-so-Christian Democrats and the small-l liberals.

We need to talk about the everyday racism that means that we talk about “immigrant suburbs,” and not just suburbs.

We need to talk about the silent racism that leads to “schools with a high percentage of pupils from non-Swedish backgrounds,” and not just schools.

We need to talk, not of immigration, but of integration.

Because the first will happen anyway.

The second is up to us all.

On a day when Ahmed Hassan’s mother spoke of her love for her slain son, and Lavin Eskander’s friends spoke of his love for his job as an assistant at the school in Trollhättan where he was murdered, it’s about time we started talking about racism.

Anton Lundin Pettersson murdered both of them simply because they weren’t white.

It doesn’t get more racist than that.

But it doesn’t stop there.

How this crime is being reported to the world drips with racism – maybe not the aggressive kind that led Pettersson to kill, but racism all the same.

It is the kind of racism that sets the tone and the agenda, and that writes the first – and often the only – draft of history.

The kind of racism that calls him a “lone wolf”, when a brown person would have been called a “terrorist”.

The kind of racism that says he was dressed as Darth Vader, and not as a Nazi stormtrooper.

The kind of racism that fails to mention his military march around the school looking for victims.

It is the kind of racism that makes people in media and politics appeal for calm when they themselves, by their ethnicity, are safe in the knowledge that they are not, and never will be, the target of such attacks.

It is the kind of racism that sees no connection between the burning-down of planned refugee centres, the government’s change of heart in terms of granting temporary rather than permanent asylum, and the murder of schoolchildren.

It’s all connected.

In 2011, Jens Stoltenberg’s memorable answer to Breivik’s terror was “more openness, more democracy.”

But Norway’s answer was to vote him out of power and instead replace him with the “right-wing populist” – or, in simple terms, racists – of Fremskrittspartiet.

In Denmark and Finland, the race towards racism continued untrammelled by Breivik’s bad press. Even Denmark’s Social Democrats tried on the brown shirt, but to no avail, as they desperately tried to cling to power.

And in Sweden it happened too, as Jimmie and his party, born of the neo-Nazi movement, grew inexorably to the point where almost one in five could consider voting for his merry band of besuited fascist thugs.

We have to talk about racism. We have to talk about immigration. We have to talk about fear.

But to do so we have to stop talking about immigrants as threats and start seeing them as people.

We have to challenge the narratives created in the dark belly of the Internet, where hatred germinates out of lies and memes.

Because it is the dehumanising of individuals, the grouping-together so beloved of racists that leads young men to arm themselves with swords and kill based on skin colour.

I live in a multicultural area, but Pettersson would not have stabbed me or my children, simply because we are white.

But he would have stabbed some of my friends and some of my children’s friends, because they are not.

We bear no collective guilt for the actions of Pettersson, but we owe it to those who died to confront the elephant in the the room that is everyday racism – even if it is our own racism.

Because it is that – and not extremism – that makes Sweden one of the world’s most segregated places.

 

Refugee relief is not a numbers game

So far the focus of Ireland’s response has been to concentrate on how many Ireland can actually take in – this despite the elephant in the room that is direct provision – and not what will happen once they get here.

First we had Simon Coveney’s pathetic opening bid if 600.

But, like a bad poker player assumed to be bluffing, he was quickly forced to raise it to 1000.

The latest bid comes from the smouldering remains of the Labour Party, with Joan Burton apparently saying that Ireland can take 5000 refugees.

What nobody seems to be saying is what we will do with them when they arrive here.

As with everything else in Ireland, there is no long-term plan, just a knee-jerk reaction.

Whether we take in one or 100,000, we need to have a concrete plan, a process to ensure that those who do come to Ireland are given a better life than what they currently have, and not simply warehoused in direct provision – or worse still, sluiced out into a society that neither cares about them nor wants them.

I live in a suburb in northern Stockholm where I see the results of failed integration every day.

This failure is not down to those who have come here; it is down to a society that either doesn’t know what to do with them, or in many instances doesn’t want anything to do with them at all.

Last Monday evening I sat in one of Stockholm’s most classic downtown cafés with Mahad.

Mahad speaks seven languages and is a qualified doctor – two of the languages he speaks are Arabic and Somali, a pair of mother tongues that very few in the Swedish medical profession can claim to master.

When I look around the suburbs of Kista, Husby, Akalla, Rinkeby, Tensta and Hjulsta I am struck by how his skills should be a goldmine – but rather than employ him and allow him to treat patients in their own language, he is locked into a bureaucratic nightmare.

First, his credentials had to be evaluated – after a year, he was told that he must compliment them and take tests here in Sweden, despite reading the same books and carrying out the same procedures as any EU-educated doctor.

Then he must learn Swedish – he speaks it competently already but doesn’t consider himself as fluent as he is in his other seven languages – and then he must negotiate a labour market that, while seemingly open to all, is suspiciously closed to those with a similar background to his.

There is an unspoken, structural racism at work – why take the black African unknown quantity, when you can take the blonde, blue-eyed person from up the road? Okay, their qualifications and experience might not be as good, but at least you know what you’re getting…

That is Mahad’s experience at this moment, and he is just one of many that Sweden has failed to integrate.

I see it in journalism too – white, middle-class people populating the press boxes and the press conferences, asking questions in white, middle-class tones about issues that affect white, middle-class lives.

A brown face with a microphone is perceived as an uppity outsider, rather than a breath of fresh air – Sweden tends to avoid conflict, so the critical voices of brown people are silenced by simply not inviting to the party in the first place.

And then, to add insult to injury, when they can’t find a job, we call them lazy and use them as a reason not to offer sanctuary to others.

The vicious circle is complete.

Time and again last Monday night, Mahad stressed to me that he doesn’t want handouts from the state – he is grateful for what he has been given, but he simply wants to be allowed to practice his profession, contribute to society and have a dignified life in a country that is safe.

Ireland risks going the same way.

Have Coveney or Burton or anyone else in the Irish government considered exactly how they are going to help refugees into Irish society?

How will they learn the English language? How will they be exposed to Ireland’s customs and culture?

How will they learn about hurling and craic and dodging responsibility for everything, the three core things all Irish people hold dear?

How will they be integrated into a labour market destroyed by the economic collapse and further fragmented by the free labour scam that is Jobbridge?

Unfortunately for our politicians, refugees are not simply there to be taken in to  score compassionate political points for parties who have shown no compassion for their voters.

They have needs and wants like everyone else.

It takes effort. It takes compassion. And in the short and medium term, it takes money too.

In many cases – such as my friend and team-mate Hashem, whose mother was killed by Assad’s bombs in Damascus and who fled across the sea to Greece and then on to Sweden – they need time to heal their psychological and physical wounds.

They need support, and they need a process in place to ensure that they can once again begin to live their lives with the dignity that they have been robbed of in their home countries.

Lurking, as always, in the background, are the racists who will pounce on any opportunity to spew bile on those born abroad.

You only have to look at the Facebook page of Identity Ireland (who claim to be a political party and have launched as such, but are so inept that they haven’t managed to register) to see how the spores of hatred flower in the darkness.

If we fail to integrate Mahad and Hashem properly and instead force them into the lower socio-economic echelons of society, we are creating an instant conflict between them and others who battle for the meagre resources at the lower end of the scale.

This is where the visible racism occurs, but it is born of the invisible structural racism – and indeed the destruction of any protection offered in our labour market – that has happened long before they even got here.

Citizens of the EU have already spoken by their actions, welcoming refugees and insisting our politicians do more.

But these people have been failed by their own countries and we owe it to them not to fail them again.

We owe it to them to offer a life that is better than a Jordanian or Kenyan refugee camp.

Whether one or 100,000 come, we owe it to them to offer them a chance of a life that we ourselves would want to lead.

 

Hunt-ing Roma in Waterford

Sweden Democrats 2014 election poster – to the left, it says “Time to stop the organised begging on our streets.”

So the Sunday Independent makes a predictable defence of the racist mob that targeted Roma homes in Waterford last week.

I’m not going to bother picking apart Carol’s arguments here – instead, I am going to tell you about a story I’m working on which illustrates how dangerous such writing can be.

In the summer of 2014 Vasile Zamfir came to Stockholm from Romania to collect the remains of his father, who had died of a heart attack while in Sweden, to bring his coffin home to be buried.

He was one of hundreds of Roma in the city, many of whom have made their way to Sweden to beg on the streets. He had a son with Downs Syndrome in Romania, and the money he and others collected – usually around €10 a day – was saved and brought home.

Like most of the Roma currently in Sweden, Vasile lived together with a group of others in a temporary camp, made up of lean-to shacks and tents.

Despite Sweden’s liberal reputation, the Roma aren’t popular with a lot of people, and the standard accusations are levelled at them.

They only come here for the social welfare (they are not entitled to social welfare), they are criminals, they are part of an organised begging ring (neither charities nor authorities have found any evidence to support this claim) and so on.

The wilder stories tell of them being dropped off in the morning in shiny BMWs and Mercedes, pictures of handicapped children handed out to increase their takings from the gullible Swedes.

I have followed these people, and I have never seen any evidence of the above.

But that didn’t stop the Sweden Democrats – a far-right party founded by neo-Nazis in 1988 – from printing up election posters about banning “organised begging”.

The internet went one step further.

“The beggars’ camp should be torn down, burned or blown to fuck. Preferably with the beggars hanging upside down. Hypothetical thoughts, but…” was one contribution to the debate.

“Stones, knives, petrol bombs, or Kalashinikov, makes no difference when our elected representatives haven’t the guts to take the step to free us from this modern plague, I will applaud each and everyone who contributes so we avoid seeing these people, who deliberately dress in rags and try to profit from the innate goodness of us Swedes,” was another.

Everywhere, there were well-meaning columns written – surely it can’t be racist to question why they are here, or why they are unemployed? And for every column written by a well-meaning, well-to-do journalist, the stakes for the Roma went up.

At 4am on the warm summer night that was August 31, and luckily for most of his friends, one of the residents of Vasile’s camp got up to urinate.

He saw how flames quickly spread across the roofs of the shacks that housed 17 people in Högdalen.

In the beginning there was no smoke – as there would have been if a cigarette butt had smouldered and set light to timber, for example – which led many of the residents to believe that the fire was started deliberately using a flammable liquid.

Vasile Zamfir och Codrut Kalanyos were trapped in their shack. Codrut survived but was badly injured.

Police and the fire brigade came, but the scene was not secured until seven hours later, making it almost impossible to conduct a proper investigation into what caused the fire. Many witnesses were never interviewed.

Vasile died in a Swedish hospital from injuries sustained in a fire that many believe was started deliberately, with the sole purpose of driving the Roma out of the area and out of Sweden – pretty much the same goal as the marchers in Waterford last Saturday night who broke windows and terrorised women and children.

He came to Sweden to collect the remains of his father, and instead he too now lies in the ground in Romania.

In your article Carol – which, incidentally, repeats a slew of favoured modern racist tropes, from Roma criminality to the invoking of Rotherham to permit any form of wild unfounded accusation – you refer to last week’s pogrom and ask the following question:

 

All of that is disgusting, horribly, criminally wrong.

But do I really need to say that? Isn’t it self-evident? 

The answer is very simple. As long as mobs feel that they can take the law into their own hands and go smashing the windows of families because of their ethnicity – yes, you do. Loudly and clearly, and without going on to legitimise such actions in the next paragraph.

Because your questioning of the Roma, your oblique references to the “moral failure” of their culture (whatever that may be), and your failure to understand that their difficulties are caused not by their ethnicity but by their marginalisation and poverty, legitimises real racism like the marching mobs of Waterford.

And it provides the fuel for the fires of these mobs who believe that they can burn out anyone they choose.

Ode To A Herring Sandwich

Those outside of Sweden are often spared the joy of hearing the views of the members of the Sweden Democrats, but now that one of them has been elected deputy speaker of the Swedish Riksdag it is in both the wider public interest and in keeping with this blog’s intent to share thoughts on political communication to reproduce some of their more remarkable public utterances. 

So to mark the ascension of Björn Söder to the position of deputy speaker, I have translated a blog post from the original Swedish that apparently has since been deleted. 

Söder, a senior member of the Sweden Democrat party started by neo-Nazis among others in 1988, is a man of strong views – among them that homosexuality is an aberration and that Islam is the single greatest threat to Western civilisation.

His politics could accurately be described as the kind of cultural conservatism beloved of the likes of Anders Behring Breivik and UKIP. 

In this post, Söder proclaims his love for Swedish culture through the medium of a herring sandwich at the Malmö festival, before deploring the “dark clouds” of multiculturalism. 

Björn Söder – likes herring. Dislikes gays.

The sun shone and spread its pleasant rays over my shoulders. Though it was half past seven on a Wednesday night it felt like the heat had finally arrived.

It was, after all, one of the first warm evenings, even though it was in the month of August.

The train was already in the station. Everywhere there were people walking and running who were on their way to Malmö to take part in the festival. Along with my girlfriend and some friends, I got on the train.

Outside the Scania countryside passed by.

Wonderful.

Farms and houses looked like palaces and temples of the Swedish summer heat. The trees and fields appeared one after the other and stood in contrast to the clear blue sky.

Feeling a part of that environment felt wonderful.  My thoughts began to turn to my ancestors, who along with others had worked hard to create such a heavenly realm like this.

I could feel a little pride swell in me. A pride in being Swedish. To have been born Swedish. Of having ancestors who built Sweden.

My thoughts were interrupted. The train slowed down at Malmö Central Station. We got out of the train and walked towards the city center.

There was life everywhere. People went back and forth across the streets and the cars had trouble getting around. We were met by people from some company that was about to the dragon boat competition.

They sang and whistled and the people in front of them moved out of the way to avoid being trampled upon. We followed in their wake – this way we avoided the throng of others, and were on our way to watch the competition.

It was now eight o’clock and my stomach began to rumble for food. During festivals usually it’s not a problem finding something to eat, and it wasn’t a problem this time either – if you want to eat something exotic and foreign, of course.

Everywhere there were foreign food. Latin food, tacos, busesca, falafel, Indian delicacies, Thai dishes, Nigerian specialties, kebab and more.

But where was the Swedish food? Is the traditional Swedish cooking so bad and boring that no one wants it? I searched frantically.

I had decided that if I could not find anything Swedish to eat then my stomach would have to put up with being hungry.

Suddenly. I saw a small light in the otherwise dark surroundings. “Herring Sandwiches” was written on the sign. I walked up with urgent steps. Past all the food stalls that smelled of garlic.

I felt a joy. The joy of that there was still Swedish food to be had. I threw down a twenty-crown note for my sandwich.

I received it and felt the wonderful smell of herring. Well worth the price, I let the sandwich disappear down my gullet, and a few moments later felt the satisfaction in my stomach.

Surely there is one and two other bright spots here at the festival, I thought, and proceeded to saunter.

After looking around for about another hour, we decided to head for home. You could feel the air getting slightly cooler and damper now that the sun had gone down.

We went over to Gustav Adolf Square. Outside McDonald’s, dark clouds gathered. By all accounts, it was probably a meeting place, or rather, a haunt for all the world’s different peoples – except the Swedes, of course.

Where the Swedes were gone I do not know. Then we crossed the square and went into a pedestrian area, and it was clear to me that the Swedes had fled the field.

Everywhere there were big black clouds in the otherwise clear night. The sound of the South American and Indian music mixed with languages from around the world, and the feeling that you were in a land far, far away grew.

Nowhere was there a bright cloud to be seen. The dark clouds hung everywhere.

My stomach was turning upside down and the tears started running down my cheeks. The pride in being Swedish that I had felt earlier in the evening had now given way to a hate inside.

Not a hatred of the people who were there, but a hatred of the decision-makers who caused it as my eyes now beheld. These decision-makers had not shown my ancestors any respect.

They had not taken any account of what the Swedish people – including me – thought. They had done what they wanted. They wanted to create a multicultural society.

With the tears on my cheeks, I hurried past through the darkness along with the others.

The evening had now changed from a warm, bright summer evening to a cold and dark night.

We got on the train to go home. The train was full of people. Many others had apparently also planned to go home.

I understand them.

A fight that will last more than three rounds

The offending tweet from Herb Street.

It was the stark, casual, easy laziness of our return to racism that was so disappointing, and yet so predictable.

Moments before, John Joe Nevin had fought himself to  a standstill in an effort to deliver another Olympic gold medal for his country.

An honourable silver later and you would have thought the red carpet would be rolled out from Dublin airport to Mullingar.

Instead,  whoever controls the Twitter account of the Herb Street restaurant in Dublin decided to put Nevin back in his place.

In a single tweet (see image), he and his family were just another bunch of thieving Travellers.

It wasn’t a case of Nevin going from hero to zero – he simply returned to where he and his people have always been for many in  Irish society.

Then came the defence of Herb Street – first the operator of the account tried (laughably) to claim that “a prat” had taken his or her phone and posted the now-deleted “joke”.

It’s the online equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”.

Then other Twitter users started to ask what the big deal was – it was only a joke. And of course they were right – it was ‘only’ a joke.

But here’s the big deal- it wasn’t a joke furtively shared amongst friends in a pub, an aside soon forgotten.

It was a very, very public joke, and in very bad taste, in front of an audience of thousands during the biggest sporting event on the planet,  perpetuating one of the most damaging prejudices about the Travelling people, from the account of what was previously a reputable business in Dublin.

That was the big deal.

Many seemingly failed to grasp that fact, and more defences came.

“Travellers aren’t politically correct themselves.”

It doesn’t matter.

“You never see any gay or divorced or handicapped travellers.”

That doesn’t matter either.

“It’s just a joke- hardly the crime of the century.”

Again, it doesn’t matter.

The joke was wrong. Denying making it was wrong.  Not apologising properly was – and is – wrong.

It took thirteen hours for a lame effort at an apology to be made – with no acceptance of responsibility, or no explanation of how the tweet came to be sent.

Now I know (or used to know) a lot of Travellers back in Dublin. I know how annoying and abrasive and aggressive some of them can be.

I know that some can be violent, and I know that there are Travellers involved in criminal behaviour.

I’ve run into them on several occasions here in Sweden too, and it hasn’t often been a positive experience.

But I also know good, decent Travelling people who frown on all that, who see the value of education and integration and wrestle with their traditions and their instincts as they strive to give their families a better future.

I know of people heartbroken when their children come home with more tales of how they were barred from shops or called ‘dirty knackers’ by passers-by for no reason.

I know of the families who encourage the John Joes of this world to work hard and look after themselves, who fill them with pride and desire to do well for their families, their people, their country.

I know how they struggle with those who – on both sides – say that there is no point, because they’ll never be allowed in.

We’ll never let them in. We will never accept them.

Instead, we’ll let them represent our country, and then when we’re done with them we’ll go back to the old ways and make jokes denigrating them.

Maybe, thanks to some idiot at Herb Street, now is the time to start the dialogue needed, but I doubt it can happen.

The issue of Travellers in Ireland and England is usually enough to have otherwise reasonable people reaching for arguments they would never use in a discussion about Muslims or Africans or Jews, but somehow it’s OK when it’s “our own.”

Maybe Herb Street can make it up to John Joe and his family by telling them the truth about how the tweet came to be posted, and what they’re doing about it.

Then maybe they could put the kettle on and invite us all over to discuss how his success in the boxing ring as part of Team Ireland could be translated into other areas of society.

I just hope their food isn’t as tasteless as their jokes, and that it doesn’t take thirteen hours to get something resembling service – or a proper answer.

 

 

Poles pay the bill for paper’s lack of resources

Hat for sale, one careless previous owner. Contact Norma Costello, c/o the Irish Independent.

As the perfect media storm formed over Donegal and Magda this week, it washed up a pathetic excuse from one of the journalists involved.

Norma Costello took to her blog to defend the indefensible, laughably attempting to suggest that her article wasn’t intended to be racist.

Amazing how none of her “inaccurately translated quotes” portrayed Polish people in a good light, isn’t it?

She has the gall to suggest that, to get a fuller understanding of how she herself has been a victim of racism, we should read the rest of her blog.

I won’t be doing that.

I’ve read one of her articles, and thus filled my quota of misinformed, badly-written racist tripe for this lifetime. I hope no-one else bothers to read it either.

She then attempts to justify herself, whining about inequality and suggesting that because of her degree, journalism owes her a living.

She got €80 off the Indo for her googling – not much more than forty pieces of silver, and about €80 more than I would have been prepared to pay had she submitted it to me.

There are two truths here – one is that the likes of Norma Costello doesn’t belong in journalism. Racism and inequality notwithstanding, she made fundamental errors that are the anathema to the profession.

Let me explain.

I was contacted late one night with information that could have brought down the Cowen government, long before its calamitous end.

The information was journalistic dynamite, and as it was breathlessly relayed to me over the phone, I prepared myself for the appearance on Morning Ireland that would inevitably result.

I never appeared on Morning Ireland.

Instead, I went and checked what I had been told with a variety of sources, all of whom confirmed that what I had been told was completely untrue. There was no story.

Because that is what journalists do. About 20% of the job is writing- the rest is reading, questioning, calling, checking –  sometimes even translating, provided you speak the language yourself.

This is what Norma should have done- checked the accuracy of her dynamite quotes. If she had, she would have realised her story was bunkum.

She could have done what Pat O’Mahony did- a proper journalist with years of experience in broadcasting and print- and actually tried to interview Magda herself.

Instead it appears that, for her €80, Norma was content only to get a dodgy translation and then let her prejudices run riot.

How much of the €80 was spent on a professional translation of the original Polish newspaper article? I’m going to hazard a guess and say zero.

But in that lies our second truth- it is impossible to produce quality journalism for €80.

It cannot be done.

You might be able to knock off 300 words about the Islamification of Moate or how the public service eat more biscuits than the rest, to name but two Indo favourites, but not a proper news article. And certainly not quality journalism, whatever Ian O’Doherty might say.

Laptops, phone calls, petrol, parking, bus tickets, notebooks and coffee all cost money. So too do digital cameras and degrees and software.

To do the Magda story properly for a freelancer should take about three or four hours- €20 an hour does not even come close to covering the cost.

Add to that the fact that freelancers don’t have regular work and you can why there is a temptation to cut corners.

But the papers won’t pay more unless we as advertisers or consumers pay more.

And as consumers, we can do two things- we can stop reading the newspapers that churn out this cack-handed, badly-written, barely-researched rubbish that shouldn’t even be used to wrap chips.

And instead of that, we can pay more for quality.

I’m a big fan of freedom of information, but the time has come to prepare ourselves to pay for content; far from limiting our access to information, time-limited paywalls will ensure that the quality of information we do receive is increased. Keep it exclusive for a week, then open it up.

In doing so we can recognise that the digital world is a cheaper marketplace to produce in, and make it both affordable and accessible.

And hopefully if media outlets do that, they’ll be able to pay editors who are smart enough to recognise that the likes of Norma Costello have no place in journalism.

Because in their incompetence, they cheapen  the work of proper journalists like Pat O’Mahony, and hundreds of others who try to get their story straight.

When “inaccurate” is just a fancy word for “wrong”

It says a lot about Ireland that the last written testament of a dead girl can be changed to protect the powerful, but the unwarranted vilification of an unemployed Polish immigrant doesn’t merit an apology, much less a retraction.

What it does tell us is, unfortunately, something we already know.

Ireland doesn’t do accountability.

Not from the politicians, one of whom saw fit to spoof his head off about “Magda” without knowing anything other than what he was told on the phone- by a non-Polish speaking journalist.

He offered to pay for her to go home; am I alone in hoping that he keeps the ticket for himself, and makes it one-way in the process?

Nor do we hold the bankers and bondholders accountable either, trucking over borrowed money to ensure that risk is erased from their portfolios, rather than forcing on them the losses that would make them accountable for those risks.

Nor can we get it from the fourth estate. Like the Irish Times before them, the Irish Independent- proud stable of thinly-veiled islamophobia as peddled by Ian O’Doherty, lest we forget – has neglected to offer any apology or explanation, other than the following:

YESTERDAY’S story about a Polish woman living on welfare payments in Ireland sparked much discussion and controversy.

Some parts of the original interview, on which the story was based, were inaccurately translated.

Let’s be honest here- they weren’t “inaccurately translated”.

They were wrong.

The article was wrong.

Publishing it was wrong.

Not deleting it immediately was wrong.

And not apologising to the readers and the Polish people is wrong.

What is most disturbing is the total silence from the two journalists who wrote the original cack-handed rubbish- where are they? Where is their explanation? Where is their apology?

Part of the job of newspapers is to hold others accountable.

And the major part of the problem with Irish newspapers is that they fail to hold either themselves or each other accountable, especially in cases like this or Kate Fitzgerald.

So there we have it- another scandal in Irish public life. There will be no resignations, no trials, no arrests and definitely no apologies.

It’s not what we do.

Those in power in Ireland are not accountable to anyone.

There is no-one policing those in power, and they cannot police themselves.

Is it any wonder we’re in hock to the world?

EDIT: I’ve just spotted on Twitter that the Press Ombudsman will not be taking any action against the Indo as they published a revised transcript and a letter from the Polish ambassador- so apparently it’s now OK to publish articles full of racist undertones and you don’t even have to apologise.

What was it I said about Ireland not doing accountability again?

Darren Scully and Enda Kenny. (Not pictured- all their black friends)

Every now and again a politician says something so profound that it echoes in our history books.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”.

“Peace in our time.

“Tear down this wall”.

“I will no longer represent black Africans”.

Thank God for the appalling stupidity of Darren Scully – an avowed non-racist, some of whose best friends aren’t black – for once again showing us that austerity produces not just hard choices and more poverty for the already-impoverished, but it’s a greenhouse for racism too.

Far from drowning in a sea of celtic tiger-era skinny lattes, our racists and racism survive and thrive, especially now that we’re poor again.

I’ve written before about the ridiculous nature of some of the rubbish that gets spouted about Africans in Ireland by the defenders of the ideologies of Hitler , and yet still they come. Our friend Sven with his “99.8% of sex crimes in Oslo are committed by non-Europeans” comment on another piece is just one of them.

I argued long and hard on a similar subject with another crackpot racist (this time from Israel), whose basic assertion was that people were being raped in their droves by the Muslim hordes right outside my very window.

Be that as it may, there would be no statistics, as Swedish police do not record ethnicity- let alone religious affiliation- when investigating crimes here.

Gavin Titley wrote a brilliant piece today for politico.ie outlining why the likes of Scully think it’s OK to be staggeringly and publicly racist, and then deny it as not being racism at all.

I’d like to say read it and learn something, but having listened to George Hook’s section on it yesterday, it’s more like read it and weep.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room here too, and that is his continued status as a member of Fine Gael. Whereas a non-racist political party would have kicked him to touch the second he opened his gob, Fine Gael can’t.

Because to do so would be to admit that Enda Kenny’s Patrice Lumumba joke was equally wrong.