Ireland’s ambassador to Australia has hit back at the recent rise in racist stereotyping of the Irish down under.
Ambassador Noel White has responded to the growing criticism of Irish immigrants and their drinking habits.
White was moved to reply to an article in The Age newspaper after a story outlining the tragic suicide of Padraig Gaffney after he had pleaded guilty in a Melbourne court onto causing criminal damage at a local hotel.
The newspaper ran a headline which read: “Drunk Paddy in $500k flood of tears.”
In response, White slammed the paper and the growing racism experienced by Irish emigrants to Australia.
White said: “It has no place in a sophisticated, multicultural society such as Australia. It demeans those to whom it refers and diminishes those who put it forward.
“I condemn the tone and language the newspaper used to describe a young man who had expressed remorse and shame for his actions.”
Writing to The Age, he added: “It should come as no surprise that the media coverage of court proceedings involving the late Padraig Gaffney has provoked strong reaction within the Irish community and, in the process, drawn attention to the impact of language used in relation to ethnic groups and nationalities.
“The reaction has been a mix of shock, grief and dismay: shock and grief at a tragic loss of life; dismay at the casually offensive language.
“This is not, of course, the first time that the Irish have been labelled in this way. In the past the Irish were conditioned to the ridicule of the ‘Irish joke’.
“The caricature of the fighting, drinking, dissolute Irish, notoriously promulgated in the pages of Punch in the 19th Century, while certainly less evident these days, has not been entirely eradicated.
“When it does occur, its impact is not diminished by familiarity.”
The Sunday Independent reports that Ambassador White added: “The Irish do well in Australia. They work hard. And if nationalities can be characterised, they live life to the full, often with high spirits and good humour, characteristics they share with many others. Also, like others, the Irish are not immune to the effect of offensive and insulting language.”
Some Age readers have slammed Ambassador White’s article.
But other Irish now living in Australia have told the Sunday Independent that it is a fair reflection of the current situation in the country.
Migration agent Liz O’Hagan, in Australia for 15 years, said that a very small minority of young Irish people are now spoiling it for everyone else.
She said: “Irish people are being stereotyped as drunks and irresponsible, when the reality is that small groups of young people are the problem.
“Wearing county jerseys and visiting Irish establishments means the Irish stand out. Even the media in Australia seem to think it is okay to stereotype all Irish.
“Where young people tend to get themselves in bother here is that for many it is their first taste of freedom from home and they can earn high wages, which is opposite to what they experienced in Ireland.
“Many young men work up in the mines on four weeks on and a week off. They return to the city and go mad on drink because in the mines they have alcohol restrictions. Many have little expenses here, but a surplus income and this equates to foolish behaviour.
“Most Australians I speak with love Irish people, but really want us to take on board and respect the rules and laws of Australia.”
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs estimates that there are between 85,000 and 100,000 Irish-born people in Australia at any one time.