By John O'Mahony
Four fifths of those who voted in a referendum in the south of Ireland, held on the same day as the Euro-election, voted to deprive some babies born in Ireland - those of recent immigrants - of automatic Irish citizenship. The Fianna Fail government promoted the "no to citizenship" cause, which, "on the ground", was argued as grim and undisguised racism - "you don't want blacks here, do you?" The left and Sinn Fein campaigned against the government, but were defeated by the chauvinist groundswell.
In Ireland as in Britain there has been much agitation against asylum seekers. And there are additional Irish peculiarities.
The 26 Counties' economy boomed throughout the 1990s and for the first time in 150 years migrant workers began to enter, rather than leave Ireland. Nationalist popular culture is saturated with stories and songs lamenting a generation after generation of young people going out of the country, many of them never to return. There is much in it about the hostility Irish migrants met, in Britain, America, and elsewhere.
That awareness of what migration means might have created a sympathy for the newcomers that would overcome or neutralise resentment that strangers were now coming in from where so many of their friends and relations had had to flee. Except in a minority it did not. At racist-chauvinist tide is washing through Ireland and in the north as well as the south.
The truth is that Ireland has long been a viciously racist society against some of its own indigenous population - the so-called "tinkers", "travellers", Irish "gypsies". These are not Roma, but a distinctive population of Irish-originating itinerants. They have been discriminated against, barred from public places, run out of town, subjected to frequent police and vigilante violence and systematically hounded by the settled people. Now newcomers are getting the same treatment.
Those who proclaimed Ireland as an Independent Republic in 1916 wrote into their declaration of independence the pledge to "treat all the children of the nation equally." The 80% of Irish voters in the referendum have, by voting to deprive Irish-born children of Irish citizenship, spit on the graves of Connolly and Pearse and the others who paid for that Declaration of Independence with their lives.