Monday, September 10, 2007

How Ireland Invented a New 'N' Word

You don’t hear the ‘n’ word being used these days, to describe people of a different colour.
The ‘n’ word. Nigger. A deeply and gratuitously and deliberately offensive word.
Those who use it nowadays display nothing but their own ignorance.

It is a word, which has, thank God, been consigned to history, a word despised by the civilsed, abhored by the decent and never spoken by those with a shred of respect for their fellow human beings.
So it is extraordinary, that one of Ireland’s most respected newspapers, and its national broadcasting service – I am talking about the Irish Times and RTE – have invented a new ‘n’ word which they have taken to using.
And this ‘n’ word is almost as insulting as its predecessor.
It litters conversations in Ireland.
It is used by those who would believe themselves to be part of the intelligentsia. It is used by politicians. It is used by leaders in almost every area of society.
It is a word, which indicates that we believe some of those in our society are different. It indicates that we believe ourselves to be, in some way, superior to others in our society.
It is a racist word.
We Irish know all about racism. When the people of Ireland first left its shores to seek better lives abroad, they were often greeted with signs reading: NO DOGS NO BLACKS NO IRISH.
They took on the lowliest of jobs, jobs nobody else wanted.
They were the subject of often pretty vicious jokes.
Right up to the end of the IRA’s hideous campaign of murder, the Irish in Britain were, in some places, vilified.
Paddies. Micks. Whatever.
The word now used in Ireland to discriminate against others may not sound as offensive as those or as ‘nigger.’
But it is.
And that word, the new ‘n’ word is ‘non-nationals.’
Let me explain why it is so nasty.
It is nasty because it is used only to describe those from Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa who have come to make their lives in Ireland.
We are told in a newspaper and on the radio “three non-nationals’ have been arrested for something or other.
We are told that the driver of a car involved in an accident is a non-national.
You know it is not an American to which they are referring.
You know it is not an Australian.
You know it is not a Norwegian.
You know it is not someone from England or Canada or Germany or Holland.
Because those we call Americans and Australians and Norwegians and English and Canadian and Dutch.
Non-national is reserved for Latvians and Romanians and Nigerians and Filipinos and Chinese and so on.
And it’s unpleasant.
And it’s insulting.
And it’s condescending.
And it’s wrong.
Because they are all nationals of their own countries. Some may very well be on their way to becoming Irish nationals.
It’s sad coming from a race of émigrés,
And I hope those who use the term, have the good grace to stop it.


Anonymous said...

And then there's the "E" word. It is sometimes used by Irish people to describe people living in the nothern and western parts of the island next door. I speak, of course, of the Scots and Welsh. So often denied their own nationality by geographical ignorance.

Great non-nationals of Irish life:
Eamon de Valera
Erskine Childers
Jim Larkin
John Stephenson (aka Seán Mac Stíofáin)
Spike Milligan
John Rocha
Michael Smurfit
- none were born on any part of the island of Ireland

Anonymous said...

Oh...and Ronan O'Gara - but we'll let him off if Ireland do well in the World Cup. If not, he's a non-national!