There have been very few times in my life when I have been ashamed to call myself Irish - but this is one of them. I am deeply ashamed that people in my home city of Belfast could attack a group of Romanian families with such racial hatred and ferocity, that they were forced to flee their homes. Here we go again. Ah, but why does it not surprse me? As a Catholic child, I had to do a bit of fleeing in the past, before the Troubles with a capital "T" became an ongoing saga of murder and hatred.
The shame deepened when I heard one man, speaking on Radio 4 yesterday, with an accent much like my own. He declared these Romanians to be "parasites who should go back to their own country." I felt a little bit of hope when another man from the same working class area that housed the evicted families, state that this was the work of only a few racists. For God's sake, does nobody learn anything from 30 years of terror, mayhem, prejudice and bigotry?
Shamefully, I must accept that it would appear they have not. Is there some dreadful flaw in the Northern Irish psyche that impels people to attack those who are different? If what has just taken place is anything to go by, then the answer must be "yes." But I thought I knew that my people were good, kind, benevolent and welcoming, for the most part; therein lies a glimmer of hope.
Many of those Romanian families now just want to go home, and who could blame them? I have to conclude that the place I called "home" is so contaminated with inhumanity and intolerance that it is best avoided. Which is a great pity. To the good people of Belfast, and there are many, I extend my sorrow that they have been tainted by the few. Let us hope they can quash the evil in their midst. Let my doubts ast to this happening be unfounded.