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Sean Og is an example to us all of dignity in face of abuse

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 Sean Og O'Halpin at the Late Late Show at RTE in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins

Sean Og O'Halpin at the Late Late Show at RTE in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins

Sean Og O'Halpin at the Late Late Show at RTE in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins

IT'S impossible not to be impressed by Sean Og O hAilpin, who appeared on the Late Late last Friday to promote his autobiography.

There is something naturally disarming about seeing a dark-skinned boy who spent his childhood in Australia, with a Fijian mother, talking with a Cork accent straight out of central casting.

But it was the words, rather than the lilting brogue, which marked Sean Og out as a man who has much to contribute towards racial tolerance in modern Ireland.

When you consider the level of provocation that he has endured for much of his life, his attitude is extraordinary, and he will have garnered many new fans for himself for both the understanding and humour that he displayed in recounting the shocking racism that he and his family encountered when the first arrived in Cork 25 years ago.

While he limited himself on the show to describing how the "N" word was used, his book reveals in much more brutal fashion the appalling abuse he had to put up with - "'Black f*****g c**t", and "'Go home and wash yourself" being two of the more choice comments.

Though visibly upset by the abuse 25 years on, Sean Og still managed to laugh it off, suggesting that to an all-white Cork city, "we must have looked like the Jackson Five".

 

Confronted

He recalled how the abuse stopped when, instead of following his parents' advice to ignore the slurs, Sean Og's sister Sarote confronted the offenders one day, and the fight that ensued resulted in the O hAilpins being left alone, as they were considered dangerous.

Sean Og revealed out people starting thinking "They're mad up there, stay away from them." When, of course, the truth is the exact opposite – the dignity and tolerance of the O hAilpin family marked them out as the only sane people in the whole tawdry affair.

"I'm talking about 25 years ago, so it wasn't yesterday or the day before," says Sean Og, attempting to diffuse the situation by suggesting that such comments would not be made today.

If only that were true...


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