Race counting and the Irish census

census-raceThe Irish census of population is upon us again, asking us to divulge information about home ownership,  room numbers, employment, transport to work,  age, birth place, gender, children,  and so on.

But what are census statistics about? According to the French theorist Michel Foucault, the collection and analysis of statistics, also known as ‘science of state’ and ‘political arithmetics’, reflect a growing governmental interest in the population, its health and illness, life and death, poverty and wealth. Statistics grant state knowledge about the population, and far from enabling the state to improve its services, statistical knowledge allows the state to differentiate between various population types – men and women, young and old, healthy and ill, rich and poor, native and immigrant, settled and Traveller, and thus exercise greater control depending on which type of population you belong to.

Perhaps the most contentious census questions is the ‘ethnic question’, the impetus for which came from Traveller organisations hopeful that enumerating Travellers and locating them in different regions would improve their access to accommodation, health, education and other services. However, in asking us to identify our ‘ethnic or cultural background’, the so-called ‘ethnic question’ is actually a race question. Continue reading “Race counting and the Irish census”

Race and the lessons of 1916

insurrectionAt the end of Easter 2016 week I feel somewhat 1916-ed out. I spent the week watching Insurrection, the wonderful day by day series about the 1916 Rising produced and directed by my late husband Louis for RTE in 1966 and which was re-broadcast for the first time only this year, fifty years after it was made. I also attended exhibitions and other events, and strolled the festive streets of Dublin. Despite the attempts by our right wing (non) government to write out the revolutionary Rising leaders in favour of reformers such as O’Connell, Parnell, Redmond and Grattan, Dublin did itself proud, with streets festooned with flags and shop windows, from banks to souvenir shops, displaying copies of the 1916 Proclamation and pictures of the 1916 leaders.

Historians encouraged us to remember not only the Rising, but also colonial violence and the fact that Ireland was the first small nation to rise against the British Empire. The events made me reflect on the revolutionary zeal of the republican and socialist leaders of the insurrection and wonder what Ireland would have looked like had they not been executed by the British.

The celebrations made me reflect on post 1916 Ireland, left to De Valera, who kept the island divided and collaborated with the Catholic hierarchy to create a reactionary, priest-ridden, anti-women, pro property owners and anti-foreigners Ireland. Continue reading “Race and the lessons of 1916”

Not a self-hating Jew

criticising-israelIn early March 2016 an Israeli bombardment of Gaza murdered two little children. According to Middle East Eye Yasin Abu Hussa, aged ten, died in a raid targeting a base of the Hamas movement military wing in Beit Lahia in the North of the Gaza Srip, one of four strikes the Israeli military said it carried out in response to rocket fire into Israel. Hours later after her big brother was klled, Israa’ Abu Hussa died from her wounds.

I shared the horrific story on my Facebook page, to be met with furious comments by Zionists who blamed Hamas, not Israel, for the children’s death, claiming that Israel is ‘only defending itself against Hamas rockets’ and that ‘Hamas operates from civilian neighbourhoods and is therefore responsible for these deaths’. Before I could remind them there are hardly any areas in the crowded Gaza enclave without civilians, and that Palestinians have every right to defend themselves against Israeli occupation, siege and aggression, the comments became personal.

‘Ronit’, said one Sheila Elle whose profile picture is Israel’s flag, ‘an Israeli name? Dubliners on a whole love you. Hope you don’t have to go crawling back on all fours’.

Astounded by the assumption that Jews are in imminent danger and need to seek refuge in the state that calls itself ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, I replied that I had ‘no plans to crawl back – Ireland is home, have lived here for years, have citizenship’, and asked her whether she is expecting another Holocaust in the near future.

When challenged, I explained I was asking whether she expects Jews to be banished from their countries of residence, because I don’t, and stressed that the fact that it is Israel that is committing genocide at present makes me very sad, having been brought up after the Nazi Holocaust by parents who genuinely believed that a better world was possible.

Elle was having none of it, writing she was glad my parents aren’t alive to see what a horrible person I have become, ending with a piece of advice: ‘change your name before it gets you killed by an antisemite who makes a mistake and thinks you’re a Jewess’.

Continue reading “Not a self-hating Jew”