North Africans share similarities with Irish

I READ with interest Kyran Fitzgerald’s reference (Irish Examiner, November 24) to reports that, of all immigrant groups, north Africans have the lowest sense of identity with Ireland and the lowest level of social interaction.

Moreover, some 15% of north Africans found it ‘very difficult’ to make friends with Irish people, twice the average for the immigrant survey group.

It reminded me of the two occasions I spent a few days in northern Morocco in the mid-1960s. My abiding memory is of friendly, happy people, with infectious smiles.

I hope that if I ever meet any immigrants from that area in Ireland, I will be able to reciprocate the friendliness I experienced in their country, probably from their grandfathers.

I think north African immigrants to this country should feel as Irish people who emigrate to the US feel — amid relatives and friends who preceded them; in this case, thousands of years ago.

North Africans, in a sense, could be considered our cousins, particularly of the southern Irish, because it seems quite likely there were north Africans in Ireland before the arrival of the Celts.

More than 4,000 years ago there was a common megalithic culture all along the Atlantic coast, from north Africa to Ireland and eastwards as far as Poland.

Around 1,300 BC, Phoenician traders were visiting Ireland and, no doubt, intermixing with the Irish.

The racial mix in the south and west of Ireland includes a dark-skinned, dark-haired Mediterranean type and there are obvious linguistic similarities between Arabic and Munster Irish.

Whenever I hear an Arabic politician being interviewed in English on the radio, I often think of how like a west Cork farmer he sounds.

Vincent Bennett



Co Cork

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