Thursday 18 January 2018

Survivor of mass slaughter warns against racism

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

A SURVIVOR of the July massacre on a Norwegian island which left 69 people dead has warned Irish people about the dangers of ignoring racism in our society.

Elin L'Estrange, whose father is from Dublin, spoke yesterday about her horrifying experiences on Utoya Island in July.

She heard the shots being fired by deranged gunman Anders Behring Breivik but managed to escape by swimming 700 metres to safety on the mainland.

"This is a story about the very worst thing racism can lead to -- violence and murder," she said.

Ms L'Estrange (24) said Behring Breivik was motivated by his racist beliefs and wanted to destroy multiculturalism in Norway.

"This guy, he hated Muslims. He thought Muslims had a twisted plan to take over Europe," she said.

She had been invited to speak yesterday at a 'Show Racism the Red Card' event in Tallaght stadium, which was attended by Dublin school children.

Ms L'Estrange said that everyone had prejudices which could develop into racist beliefs and actions -- such as not sitting beside someone on the bus because of their skin colour.

"You're not going to see a lot of people shot and killed by racism, but you are going to see people hurt. Everyone has a role to play," she said.

She was praised for her courage by another guest at the event, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. He delivered a stark warning about the need to tackle racism here to prevent a Utoya Island-style massacre here.

"When someone gets wound up and they feed off a racist menu, there is always a crazy who will take it to the extreme," he said.

In particular, he called on fellow politicians to tackle the "huge myth" of people from abroad getting five-star hotels and free cars on social welfare. The Foreign Affairs Minister said myths about immigrants on social welfare were growing stronger as people struggled to get jobs and housing.

"It's at times like that you have people looking round and saying, 'The people coming into the country are getting everything for free and we're not'," he said.

Mr Gilmore promised to continue his department's funding of the anti-racism' campaign and said that past events teach us it is vital not to let racism grow.

"It led to very bad things in Europe -- you know from your history what happened in the 1930s, when Germans got it into their heads that all their problems were because of the Jews. And you know where that led to," he said.

Those present included Shamrock Rovers captain Stephen Rice, who said he had experienced racism as a young Irish player in England.

"There were lots of things being said about you over there just because you're Irish. It isn't a nice thing, it opened my eyes when I went over there," he said.

Soccer star Rohan Ricketts, who played for Arsenal and Tottenham before Shamrock Rovers, said he had not experienced any racism here. He advised schoolchildren from different ethnic backgrounds to shrug off racist remarks, saying: "My way of dealing with it is to smile and laugh it off."

Irish Independent

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