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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

One Eyed Morality

"I am very disappointed, angry and upset for myself and my community … Irish people over the years have got upset, and rightly so, when they were called Paddies and Micks, especially in England. Now we find people here referring to us like a piece of meat. It is offensive." - A member of Ireland's Turkish community, anonymously quoted in the Irish Times

Anthony McIntyre • 31 May 2005

'Kebab', according to Alan Ruddock in the Sunday Times, is a term of abuse in Turkey used to signify a fool, supposedly because anybody can eat one. That Conor Lenihan might easily lay claim to the label he seeks to stick on others, or flawlessly personate a buffoon in the eyes of many who have the misfortune of attending the same conferences he does, should prove insufficient to win him a fool's pardon for the racist jibe he hurled the way of Joe Higgins in the Dail. In telling the Socialist Party TD to 'stick with the kebabs' he unleashed a double salvo, one at each of his targets. He sought to attack the Turkish community in Ireland while aiming to undermine those who would fight the corner of people severely disadvantaged in the lopsided Kingdom of Conor.

Joe Higgins has distinguished himself by working on behalf of Turkish migrant workers. He observed that 'the snide comment … referring to my fights against the exploitation of Gama workers, ill behoves the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs who has responsibility for overseas development.' Higgins has campaigned on behalf of Turkish GAMA workers who, according to one report have been 'ripped off by their employer and ignored by the unions, labour inspectors and authorities who are supposed to protect them.' Lenihan, straining under the weight of the white man's burden, has been less than tactful in his considerations of those from distant shores.

On one level it might appear that there is little to worry about - 'sure it is only Conor doing what he does best.' We could take his remark to mean 'stick with the kebabs; they are better company than me and you are guaranteed to get more sense out of one before you eat it.' Conor, after all, has been dismissed on one website as the Fredo of the Lenihan dynasty. Giving vent to such benign sentiment Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Bernard Allen said Lenihan should 'think before he talks, especially on sensitive matters.' It is the perennial problem with Fine Gael - forever chasing after the impossible.

More disappointingly, the same stance seems to have been adopted by Green Party foreign affairs spokesman John Gormley who described Lenihan's outburst as 'unwise as opposed to racist.' Fintan O'Toole begs to differ; pointing out that the remark was made during a debate on a subject not remotely linked to race. 'It was cool and deliberate and intended.' Like Pennywise the clown from the Stephen King book, It, something vile has been fermenting away behind the affably inane Lenihan exterior.

The people on the receiving end of Lenihan's racist comments do not share the benign perspective. As Cumali Aydin - a Turk working in Dublin - complained in the Irish Times, it is bad enough to face such bigotry without the same sentiments finding an echo chamber in the country's parliament.

The purveyor of racist sentiment is not only a parliamentarian, in the Dail by dint of popular election, but also a minister of the state, in government as a result of cabinet selection. Minister of State for Overseas Development, what next - a paedophile taking responsibility for the welfare of children?

In Irish society there exists a hierarchy of victims, where our calibrated system of sanctions makes it safe to heap abuse on the heads of some rather than others. Would Lenihan have remained in his ministerial position had he said 'stick with the niggers', or told Ian Paisley to 'stick with the orange bastards'? Nor does it take a master's degree to work out the outcome were a Sinn Fein TD to have made the kebab comment. He would be hounded and treated like a leper. Few would be making excuses for him or rushing with the offer of a fool's pardon.

Nevertheless Lenihan's immediate boss Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern has sent a clear message around the globe that here in Ireland publicly expressed racist sentiment at the heart of government carries no sanction. Ahern tried to give his underling some ministerial cover. The remarks, he said, had been made 'in the heat of the moment'. Consequently, it was not a resigning matter - even if Lenihan only made the apologies necessary in order to save his own redneck.

Labour TD Joan Burton, who once worked as a minister for overseas was much less sympathetic to Lenihan and rightly argued that his position was untenable. She described how he had 'slunk into the Dáil' to make 'an absolutely miserable apology, and then slunk out again.' Better that he continue slinking and skulk his way out of political life altogether.

It is not as if Lenihan had just gatecrashed controversy for the first time in terms of his portfolio. In November last year he caused a stir when he accused aid agencies of spending large sums of money on campaigning work in Ireland rather than sending it abroad to the poor. 'Some NGOs spend enormous amounts of money on advocacy as opposed to sending money to the Third World.' The director of Trócaire, Justin Kilcullen, described Lenihan's comments as 'outrageous.' Trócaire expenditure amounted to €200,000 a year on policy and advocacy functions out of a total budget of €45 million. Concern and Christian Aid also dismissed the contention claiming that they both spent less than 1% of their budgets on advocacy.

At the time Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh hit out at Lenihan's 'discourteous, combative and offensive' remarks.' Ó Snodaigh then outlined what he felt was the real agenda motivating Lenihan's contempt for the aid agencies.

This was an outrageous and slanderous attempt to take the focus off the Government's failure to live up to the solemn pledge it made to the world's poorest people in 2000, again in 2002 and as recently as last month. Mr Lenihan should be ashamed of himself.

O'Snodaigh was wrong only insofar as he believed Lenihan would have the sensitivity to be ashamed. His point that Lenihan should have resigned is one that needs buttressing at a time when there is clear evidence of Ireland having a worryingly skewed sense of priority. It is a society that sees little wrong in Kevin Myers being publicly lambasted for using the term 'bastard' by a pack at the front of which, fangs bared, was someone who had for long termed people 'legitimate targets.' It is a society afflicted with one-eyed morality, where the 'conch' is a malfunctioning ethical compass, and in which a clown like Conor can be a king.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

31 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Justice is the Right of All Our Victims
Gemma McCartney

Quis Separabit? The Short Strand/Markets UDA
Anthony McIntyre

Civil Law as an Instrument of Resistance
Peter Mason

A Salute to Comrades
Dolours Price

Behaviour of Young Gets Worse
David Adams

Recognising Similarities, Delivering for the People
Mick Hall

One Republican Party
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: A Common Brotherhood
Tomas Gorman

May Day versus Loyalty Day
Mary La Rosa

One Eyed Morality
Anthony McIntyre

Lying in Wait for the Dutch Tsunami…After the French Earthquake

Michael Youlton

22 May 2005

How Those In Power Respond
Anthony McIntyre

Seeking Clarity — And Safety
Justice for Jimmy Campaign

Behind the Betrayal
Philip Ferguson

Self-Deception and Distortion
Tomas Maguire

Civil Case/Witch Hunt
N. Corey

No Entry
Anthony McIntyre

The Moral Reason Never to Tell
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: Beginning to Borrow Some Revolution
Tomas Gorman

Dangerous Drugs
Sean Fleming

Rebel City
Liam O Ruairc



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