19 Meitheamh 2009.
BACK TO PORRIDGE.
Back in Belfast where the rain and bright sunshine are taking it in turns to razzle dazzle us. Back to news of mass evictions of Romanian families by ultra right groups in Belfast, to leaks about arms decommissioning by unionist paramilitary groups and rumours of continued fall out within unionism from Bairbre de Brún's spectacular election success here in the North.
So what to blog about?
This blog isn’t all or always about politics as regular readers will know. My preference would be to tell you about the baby sycamore which I found growing in the gutter. It now recovering in a little pot. Or about the pair of black birds who befriended me while I carried out this rather difficult and taxing task. But I’m not in the mood.
The images of small children and their parents being shepherded from refuge to refuge is heartbreaking. The people who attacked them are mean people. None meaner. What possible threat are Romanian families to anyone?
And when these events can happen what does it say about society?
It says that we have a lot to do to create the type of inclusive society that the vast majority of citizens deserve. Racism of some kind exists in most societies. But it is also outlawed in most societies. And here in the North of Ireland there is a very low level of convictions for hate or race crime. And that is unacceptable.
There is also a lack of tolerance. The recent murder of Kevin McDade, the Catholic victim of a sectarian beating is dreadful proof of that. This is a sectarian place. Little wonder therefore that racism is tolerated in some quarters when sectarianism is so widespread.
It is worth placing on record this blog’s view that racism, like sectarianism its first cousin, is a device for keeping people down. This state was built on sectarianism. It was the glue which kept it together, which kept us in our place and divided our unionist neighbours from us.
Of course it would be difficult to find anyone to defend these attacks. Publicly. And ordinary decent citizens are genuinely angry and depressed by them. But there is still a lack of joined up, united and coherent or positive leadership right across the spectrum of society to address and eradicate these tendencies.
We need education. We need good laws and good law enforcement. We need to build a tolerant and caring society. But most of all we zero tolerance of racism and sectarianism. And we need it now. And that includes zero tolerance for politicans who fail to set their faces against all sectarianism or racism.