Stark racism rears its ugly head in west Donegal

Sadly, an ugly racist incident took place Friday afternoon that brings the notion of ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’ and the reputation of the Donegal Gaeltacht into severe disrepute.

In trying to encourage more open public debate on what she considers is a serious community issue – Údarás spending of what is believed to be between one and three million euro on a proposed drug addiction clinic in Falcarragh and the need for greater funding for cultural tourism projects in west Donegal – my wife, Columbia – an emigrant to Ireland, now a proud Irish citizen and happy living in the Gaeltacht – was racially abused and told to “Go back where you come from. We don’t want you here.”

The person who shouted the abuse was a man, driver of a car with the registration plate 08DL5251 who stopped as he passed by a petition-signing table my wife was manning as a volunteer at Falcarragh crossroads around 3.30 pm this Friday.

This man’s distressing contribution to what he might well call ‘community development’ is all the worse considering how so many men and women from Ireland down through the generations, including the present one – and unfortunately, many from west Donegal – are emigrants themselves, in search of a new life in other countries, including England, Australia and the US. In this context, isn’t it sad such attitudes of discrimination as this man’s still exist here? Not only were his cutting and insulting remarks an example of stark racism right here in the heart of the Gaeltacht, but also utter hypocrisy.

My wife, Columbia, is a well-educated woman, a former secondary-school language teacher, one of two sisters from an ordinary working-class family in Vișeu de Sus, Maramureş, northern Romania, a small town very similar to Falcarragh itself  – both in terms of population size, pretty, rural location and indeed, economic difficulties it faces. Like many others, Columbia and her family suffered severely under Communism there until dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ousted from power in December 1989. Such suffering included lack of basic freedoms and constant food shortages – reminders in themselves of what our ancestors right here in west Donegal suffered.

Columbia raised herself from humble beginnings, won a scholarship to university and finished not just one degree but a number of qualifications in journalism, teaching and business, finally becoming for a number of years managing director of a company employing more than 30 full-time people. Not only do I love this lady very much, I am also extremely proud of what she has achieved in her life thus far.

If anyone should know the identity of the person driving car registered 08DL5251 on Friday afternoon through the centre of Falcarragh, please tell him an apology is in order. Doing so is the mark of a real man.

Alternatively, if he happens to pass you on the road, sound your horn – it might just act as reminder to him of the reputational damage he has done to the people around him and the place where he lives.

In defending spending on the Falcarragh addiction clinic, an apparent platform for his political career – and instead of dealing with the issue at hand – Udaras board member and Fine Gael local council candidate, John Curran, labeled myself and my wife on Highland Radio as ‘agitators’ and as people ‘stirring the hornet’s nest,’ rather than as concerned citizens.

Personalizing an issue in this way and using such incendiary terms often lights dangerous fuses in people. Ugly things – such as outright racism and violence – can occur as a result. Whether he meant to or not, Mr. Curran should now take steps to avoid such words for fear they are taken on board by such people as the racist car driver. In fact, perhaps, he should devote his attentions to dealing with such racial outbreaks, isolated though they may be.  And, of course making sure as a government-appointed Udaras board member that there is greater transparency and accountability when it comes to the organisation’s operations, and this addiction clinic specifically.

Sadly Yours,

Concerned Husband and Citizen

Bun na Leaca, Gaoth Dobhair

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