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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 19 April, 2019
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A rural town has a racism problem, but is fighting it

A taxi driver was robbed and attacked in Letterkenny.

Image: Jim Rafferty via Flickr/CC

AN INTEGRATION SERVICE in Donegal says that racist attacks in the town of Letterkenny is on the rise.

The warning from Donegal Intercultural Platform (DIP) comes after an African taxi driver was beaten and robbed in the town.

Paul Kernan, co-chair of the DIP, said that in recent months, there has been a rise in attacks that carried a “racist element” in recent months.

His co-chair Billy Blanda told the Donegal Democrat’s Declan Magee that a gun may have been produced in one of the robberies.

Kernan says that the abuse ranges from physical to verbal, but has affected how some people behave.

“There are groups of people who are on nights out who will only travel in groups. They’ve stopped going out alone. There is racist abuse verbally and physically. Taxi drivers are particularly vulnerable and the African drivers more so.

“Cars have been damaged and money robbed. Obviously, these could be opportunist robberies but they have focused on African drivers.”

Kernan is keen to point out that rural Ireland is no more or less racist than urban Ireland, but he says that the issue must be faced.

“We had an asylum hostel in the town that was closed a while ago. There was a person who went to Dublin, got their papers and wanted to come straight back. In small towns, there is that sense of community. Big cities are that bit more anonymous.

“The extreme is that in a small town there is a mixture of people, so a lot of people are very visible.

“Some people are quite isolated, they are afraid to say anything when there is an incident. But that silence encourages silence.

“Rural counties are warm welcoming places and people deny there is a human bias. But we have to acknowledge it is there and face up to racism.”

Kernan says that groups such as his own are fighting to be included in council planning and DIP is to run a drop in centre for those affected by racism in Donegal.

“Donegal has seen a big population shift. African communities are generally more visible and people are a bit suspicious of them and how they’re going to change people’s homes. That’s natural, so what we need is integration at a personal level. You need face to face conversation to change peoples’ minds.”

Read: A little girl wasn’t allowed attend her friend’s birthday party – because the friend was black

Read: Racism is fact of life for all minorities in Ireland

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