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'I'm proud of my heritage and I'm proud to be Irish'



Online trolls regularly tell Timi Ogunyemi he ‘can’t be Irish’

Online trolls regularly tell Timi Ogunyemi he ‘can’t be Irish’

Online trolls regularly tell Timi Ogunyemi he ‘can’t be Irish’

Timi Ogunyemi is not surprised that Irish people are using anonymity as a licence to be racist.

Mr Ogunyemi (33), a creative manager living in Dublin, regularly endures anonymous racist abuse online. He was born in Nigeria but has lived in Ireland for more than half his life. When he says Ireland is his home, and that he feels Irish, some seem to assume this means he feels white.

"A lot of the troll comments I get at the moment are: 'You can't be Irish', 'You will never be Irish.' That's a common theme," he said.

"I'm proud of my heritage and where I come from, but I've been here more than half my life. There would be something wrong with me if I was here for that long and I didn't feel at home.

"That's what I mean when I say I'm Irish and I'm proud. I feel at home here because it is my home."

New research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) revealed some people are concealing some of their prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes towards black and Muslim people in Ireland.

Mr Ogunyemi said that on those occasions when he had to endure racist remarks in social or work situations, white Irish people often stand by and say nothing.

"When they don't say anything, it tends to be either because they don't know what to say, or they do agree with those views and they just don't want to be cancelled," he said. Mr Ogunyemi said the concealed racism revealed in the report reinforced the results of the 2004 citizenship referendum, which denied automatic citizenship to children born in Ireland if their parents were not Irish.

"A lot of people believe so strongly that the vision or version of Ireland that is correct is one that we are moving further and further away from. People need to understand that racism is not about saving who you are, it's about the hatred of another," he said.

The study found Irish people who felt social pressure to hide negative attitudes towards black people did not feel the same pressure to hide negative views towards Muslim people.

Lorraine O'Connor, who is from Dublin, converted to Islam in 2005. She said she experienced some discrimination. "People would say to me: 'Go back where you came from.' And I'd say, where do you want me to go? Coolock?" Ms O'Connor said.

Ms O'Connor, who established the Muslim Sisters of Éire in 2010, said she believed the vast majority of Irish people were welcoming but discrimination did exist in a minority.

Irish Independent