Calling it out

Anti-Catholic bigotry and anti-Irish racism are heavily intertwined in the contemporary Scottish context.

The latter, in particular, is probably the last socially acceptable hatred in modern Scotland.

Therefore, I was heartened to see this public meeting advertised on Twitter last night.

However, the hatred of Catholics and enmity towards the Irish and Irishness are discrete.

I explored that distinction in my book Minority Reporter. Scotland’s bad attitude towards her own Irish (2013 Frontline Noir).

This meeting, if it is a harbinger of a societal movement against these prejudices, represents an overdue development.

The Quintessentially British chap on the Follow Follow immediately reacted to this news with unsurpassed dignity.

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Of course, it not just among the culturally unfortunate of Ibrox that such prejudicial attitudes can be found.

For example, cannot think that a Scottish MP would survive if they causally deployed a racist term against any other ethnic minority in Scotland.

However, Ms Mhairi Black MP is still in a job because her target was the Irish in Scotland.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Paisley-based politician would probably style herself as a committed advocate for the socially excluded and marginalized.

Her trenchant denunciations in the Commons of Tory austerity make for fine parliamentary theatre.

Her analysis is impossible to disagree with and she might even mean it.

In this piece I outlined the efforts I went to elicit an adequate response from the office of Ms Black.

When that was not forthcoming I contacted the office of First Minister.

My reasoning was that if Ms Black would not address her use of that hurtful and derogatory term then perhaps her boss would!

Her very personable PR chap asked me for more time to frame a response to my questions that I has put to Ms Sturgeon.

This process lasted several months.

Moreover, I suspect that if my father had hailed from Madras instead of Mayo then my request would have been dealt with as a matter of urgency.

This entire episode reminded me of a talk I gave at the Changein Scotland conference in 2011.

Sadly, I have not noticed any appreciable change in Scotland since I gave that lecture seven years ago.

During that lecture, a chap who would later go to to be an MSP sat in the corner of the room with his laptop. He interjected several times to read out comments about me that had been posted on the Follow Follow website.

It was clearly an attempt to put me off the flow of the lecture I was giving.

I asked him if he provided this ‘service’ to all of the speakers.

He didn’t reply, but he did stop interrupting my lecture.

Later that day I caught up with him in the bar and tried to explain the issues around being Second Generation Irish in his country.

I reiterated to him what I had said in the lecture:

If my father was Italian and not Irish and that my mother’s grandparents were all Irish and I was living in Italy and travelled on an Italian passport and I spoke Italian then he would probably agree that I was…gasp…Italian!

He was, at best, dismissive of my thesis.

Then I noted recently on Twitter that this chap, now an MSP, was very proud to get an Irish passport.

I replied to his tweet with “perhaps you were paying attention in Ullapool after all”.

He didn’t reply.

I hope that this public meeting is the start of something.

I know several of the people involved and they all bring a considerable skill set to the table.

Of course, in Scotland 2018 it shouldn’t be needed, but it is.


Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion