LAST MONTH, THE Mayor of Naas Darren Scully caused controversy when he said he would no longer represent black Africans in his community. Scully apologised for the remarks and stepped down as mayor. He later said it had been the worst week of his life.
I reported Darren Scully to the gardaí under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, as I felt his comments had done exactly this – incited hatred. Later, I signed a formal complaint and the matter is currently being investigated.
Since the controversy arose I have received a torrent of abuse – poisonous traffic on Twitter, email and text messages. Earlier this week, I received a letter in the post which referred to me as a ‘black c*********’, a ‘child molester’ and a ‘pervert’.
If Darren Scully has claimed the week after his comments was the worst of his life then I can say the same thing given the level of abuse and really nasty stuff that my staff and I have been subjected to.
If anything, this has convinced me that what I have done is the right thing. You have to take a stand on these things. By making all of this known what I am trying to do is give people an indication of not only the type of stuff I have been subjected to but the attitudes of some in our society that need to be challenged.
If what I have done has provoked people into saying what they have said to me then I am even more convinced of my actions because this needs to be highlighted.
Three columnists in a national newspaper have criticised my decision to complain to the gardaí, calling it cynical and in some cases accusing me of an attack on free speech. Ironically when I wrote a letter to this particular newspaper, they didn’t publish it.
If we are to have a debate about immigration in this country then we need to do it in a calm, responsible and well researched manner with a view to an end, with a view to a particular course of action to take place.
What Darren Scully was trying to do was get cheap political gain by picking on ethnic minorities who have no access to the media to respond. People will argue that it is plain speaking but it’s dangerous, it’s not enlightened and it’s not compassionate. It’s not opening a debate, it is people who are having a tough time – as we all are in these strained times – blaming somebody else.
The political system alone is not enough to deal with this. There has to be further consequences for something as dangerous as Scully’s comments. The gardaí will investigate, make a determination on this and I will accept it.
From a personal point of view, I am a human being, I don’t wear a suit of armour, these things do penetrate the veneer and they have an effect. Of course I wish it could have been easier but what I am trying to impress upon people is that these racist attitudes need to be challenged.
I am not doing this for political gain, I’ve a feeling that some people who voted for me in the last election will not do so again because of this, equally I am not going to gain votes from immigrants because many of them can’t vote.
I am doing this because I believe it is the right thing to do and that those who express these views in society need to be held accountable for them.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is a Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central. As told to Hugh O’Connell.