Galway’s welcoming reputation damaged by a few arson attacks


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Galway’s welcoming reputation damaged by a few arson attacks Galway’s welcoming reputation damaged by a few arson attacks

Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

There are an estimated 7,000 Irish pubs across the globe. Some are ‘plastic’, lacking authenticity. But the 7,000 Guinness signs adorning síbíns in most countries remind us of the positive contribution Irish emigrants have made worldwide. The pub, like our people, is one of our greatest exports.

The Irish weren’t always welcomed. Anti-Irish sentiment was rife in America when 19th century asylum seekers left these shores in their droves during the Great Famine.

Racism was widespread in Britain too, post-World War II, where jingoistic and xenophobic fascists whipped up anti-Irish bigotry.

Paddy was a parasite. Historians argue over the existence of ‘No dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ signs in 1960s London and elsewhere, but nobody disputes the environment was hostile towards Irish economic migrants making Britain their home.

Nowadays, we’re still emigrating. There are thousands of Irish in the UK. And while the US is no longer an option for most, due to tightened border controls, young Galway people are making a life for themselves in Dubai, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and everywhere in between.

Government policy may have contributed to their departure – buying a house is impossible for a generation, for example. But they’re not fleeing war or persecution. Judging by Instagram stories, many are home – drinking porter in Irish pubs – in the City of the Tribes this Christmas.

The 70 asylum seekers due to move into the Ross Lake House hotel yesterday (December 21) don’t have that luxury of nipping home for Christmas. According to Government, they were fleeing “war and persecution”.

The arson attack on the Rosscahill hotel last Saturday, means they may be sleeping rough on our streets this Christmas.

That part of County Galway has, perhaps unfairly, developed an image among outsiders, as being racist. The campaign against migrants being accommodated at the Connemara Gateway Hotel in 2019 and now this latest incident, has ensured that Oughterard for some people will forever be shorthand for the antithesis of ‘céad míle fáilte’.

That’s unfortunate. And it’s not the whole story. The town has welcomed Ukrainians at a former nursing home, for instance. Most residents of Oughterard and Rosscahill and Moycullen are decent people, who are embarrassed and repulsed by, and who condemn the arson attack. Most concur with Galway West Fianna Fáil TD, Éamon Ó Cuív that that’s not the Connemara he knows and loves.

But this has happened and it’s not an isolated incident, or confined to Oughterard either. In 2019, a Council house in Carnmore assigned to Travellers was destroyed by fire. Last June, Gardaí investigated criminal damage to a property in Rahoon, rumoured to be earmarked for migrants. And now this. What next, burn a property with migrants in it?

They’re fleeing persecution in places like Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia. They are here for protection, firstly. And they want to contribute – perhaps set up the Afghan, or Syrian or Somali equivalent of the Irish pub here in Galway.

We should be proud of the confident, prosperous country Ireland has become – thanks in part to natives forced to leave for generations – that attracts people of other nations here.

And the silent majority should call out behaviour of a small minority who are intimidating migrants and burning down buildings intended for their use – criminal acts that members of the white-hooded Ku Klux Klan would be proud of. That’s not our Galway.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the December 22 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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