ABUSE Simon Pierre, Castlebar.
Racist attack on African
THE POSITIVE findings of a survey on racism have been challenged by an African man who claims he was verbally abused on the streets of Castlebar two weeks ago.
The new research claims that experiences of racism have fallen and there has been ‘a shift of understanding and awareness of non-Irish nationals and their favourable contribution to Irish society since 2003’.
The survey commissioned by the National Action Plan Against Racism, did not include a county breakdown but, its results have been supported by the local Gardaí who told The Mayo News there were ‘little or no incidents of racism reported over the last year’.
However, a Congolese man, living in Castlebar, has painted a starker picture. Simon Pierre is a political refugee from the Congo where he worked as a television actor. He is an outspoken critic of the dictatorship that led to the deaths of five million of his country people since 1998.
Mr Pierre, along with his wife and three children, aged between five and 13, have been living in Castlebar since 2002. He told The Mayo News that, a fortnight ago, he broke down and cried on the county town’s Main Street, after a passerby verbally abused him.
“F***ing black man, go back to your country,” the abuser shouted, while allegedly digging him in the ribs. After he fell to the ground in pain, a group of schoolchildren apologised for the man’s behaviour and urged Mr Pierre to report the incident to the Gardaí.
“My colour is not my fault, it is God’s. If you cut my finger, what colour is my blood. It is the same as a white man’s blood,” said Mr Pierre. He did not report the incident.
Mr Pierre also stated that ‘language’ problems were a significant issue in relation to employment potential, stressing that despite doing several courses, neither FETAC nor FÁS had been able to find him employment.
“I think it’s getting worse because there are more people coming into the country. Employers now say, where are you from? Poland? Latvia? Ok. But Africa. No,” he said.
Mr Pierre stressed, however, that his children were very happy in school and provided great help translating for him. He attends a weekly course in English.
Local activist, Dr John Mulloy, said that while he welcomed ‘the mellowing of attitudes’, he was seriously concerned by the proposed introduction of the bio-metric residency card, which, he believes, will open up new racism issues.
“People will be liable to be stopped and questioned by the Gardaí simply on the basis of their colour,” said Dr Mulloy, who strongly criticised Minister Michael McDowell’s ‘hyping of the issue’ by stating last year that ‘most asylum seekers were using cock and bull stories’ to gain entry to Ireland.
The most recent Garda statistics confirm there are 1,434 non-EU nationals living in Mayo.