Anti-British sentiment should be regarded as “racist” in the same way as anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish rhetoric, a Douglas-based county councillor has said, writes Rob McNamara.
Social Democrat member Joe Harris has said he is concerned about an emerging anti-British sentiment in Cork and believes Cork County Council should officially condemn it.
Independent Cllr Diarmaid O’Cadhla, a member of the Cork Street Names group, was arrested in February and questioned by gardaí over his part in the vandalism of Victorian street signs in the city while signs reading, “Vulgar Victoria the Famine Queen Shame on Cork” appeared around the city in June.
In a separate incident, unrelated to the Cork Street Names campaign, work carried out by the Mad About Cork group to brighten up dilapidated parts of the city were daubed with the words “Brits out” in April.
Cllr Harris said British culture has to be granted the same respect as any other.
“It’s dragging historical horrors up and trying to take advantage of them in the present time. It’s not helpful to future relations,” said Mr Harris. “Anti-English sentiment should be as unacceptable as anti-Traveller, anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish sentiment. It’s unacceptable, and it’s racist.”
Cllr Harris has placed a motion before Cork County Council asking them to officially condemn the anti-British sentiment.
“Cork County Council is one of the largest in the country and we should not sit idly by. We should do something positive to create a better atmosphere. We are too silent on it. We are the Rebel County and there are 400,000 people living in the area. We need to start a debate on it and not let this be done in our name,” he added.
In response, Councillor O’Cadhla said there was nothing anti-English about the Cork Street Names campaign and added that it is highlighting historical crimes by Queen Victoria and not provoking hate of any kind. He also condemned the ‘Brits out’ graffiti seen recently in the city centre.
“You won’t find anti-Englishism with me or with anything I’ve seen in relation to the Cork Street Names campaign. I don’t see how it can be construed as that just because someone stands up for Ireland. Republican Terence McSwiney actually said that the people of England are our best friends and he’s right.”
This article first appeared in the Evening Echo