A former Cork Lord Mayor claims he sees a growing threat to Irish life and liberty and he's taking action: next month he plans to call on his fellow councilors to support a motion calling on the Irish Justice Minister to ban burkas and give the gardai (Irish police) the power to order youths to remove their hoodies.
The controversial motion, which is scheduled to be debated in City Hall next month, will be lodged by the former lord mayor (and now councilor) Joe O’Callaghan.
O'Callaghan, who is a member of Fine Gael, told the Irish Examiner that burkas had been banned in France and Belgium and it was 'high time' the Government here followed suit. 'It is an affront to women to have to be covered head to toe in a shroud in this day and age. I do not think it is compatible with our modern society and it also gives rise to security issues,' O’Callaghan said.
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O'Callaghan said he would like to see a complete ban on the wearing of hoodies in light of the riots in England, where looters had used them to hide their identities.
'I realise, however, that if it’s raining, hoodies are useful. But they are intimidating, especially to older people, and if youths have nothing to fear from the gardai then they have no need to cover their faces,' O'Callaghan said.
But James Doorley, the assistant director of the National Youth Council of Ireland, was appalled by O'Callaghan's suggestions.
'This is a silly attempt to grab headlines. It is neither helpful nor useful. The vast majority of young people who wear hoodies are law-abiding. It’s a bit ridiculous. I know a lot of people in their 30s and 40s who wear them,' Doorley told the Examiner.
John Cunningham, chairman of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, expressed similar sentiments. 'It seems surprising that the issue of the burka is being mentioned in this context by Councillor O’Callaghan. While the Immigrant Council of Ireland welcomes open and public discourse on issues of culture and diversity, the context and specifics of this motion is not hugely helpful in facilitating this discourse,' Cunningham said.
O'Callaghan picked up support from an unexpected commentator. Mahoud Shalada, the vice-president of the Cork Muslim Society, told the press he believed burkas — which, apart from the eyes, cover a woman completely — were out of keeping with a modern state. Mahoud added that his wife wears the hijab, which covers the woman’s hair but not her face, and allows the wearer to be clearly identifiable.