Saturday 24 March 2018

Racist comments badly thought out


THE RACE row which erupted last week when the Mayor of Naas announced that he would no longer represent black Africans raised many questions about where Irish society is today. In an ideal world communities large and small would be perfectly inclusive however although we would like to think we have reached that stage, we have a long way to go.

Why Cllr. Darren Scully felt the need to refer specifically to his black constituents is beyond me when it appears that behaviour and conduct, not race prompted his decision. He made a complete mess of his political career because of a rash and badly thought out statement. Had Cllr. Scully simply explained his reasons for declining to deal with any member of the public who displays rude or aggressive behaviour nobody would argue with such a decision.

People of all races have the potential to be both rude and courteous and what the backlash has taught Cllr. Scully is that your nationality or the colour of your skin doesn't define your social skills.

If Cllr. Scully felt threatened by a particular constituent then he is more than entitled to refuse to meet with them again but it is unfair to say the least to cut off an entire section of the community because of that.

In the days that followed Cllr. Scully appeared to understand why people were so offended by his statement, not least following the international interest the row has attracted.

The fact that his comments could be perceived to represent the country as a whole is concerning especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of people are leaving our shores to find work abroad.

The world has become a lot smaller and communities are becoming more and more multicultural.

From what I can make out Cllr. Scully took exception to suggestions from African constituents that he wouldn't assist them because they were black.

He says the 'race card' was unfairly played but unwittingly played it himself and failed to see why it caused such a furore.

The Fine Gael councillor is paying a dear price and appears to genuinely regret how he handled the issue. I suppose the hoards of irate and threatening emails received in the wake of it have served to express how much his comments upset people.

The bumbling interview which saw him dig himself in deeper and deeper to controversy will continue to haunt him and will serve as a reminder to public representatives in every town in Ireland how important it is to work for everyone in their community, not just some.

What I hope the saga doesn't do is to scare councillors into biting their tongues and being more concerned about political correctness than speaking out on important local issues. In this case the sensitive issue of race overshadowed the original problem that Cllr. Scully had.

Councillors must ensure that the issue at heart is addressed at future and that they handle concerns, whether their own or those of others, in an appropriate way.