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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 3 August, 2020

Sean Gallen says it's 'disappointing' Eamon Ryan used the n-word, but he had 'good intentions'

The Green Party leader was quoting from an article Gallen wrote about his experience of racism in Ireland.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (file photo).
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan (file photo).
Image: Leah Farrell/

SEAN GALLEN HAS said it is “disappointing” that Eamon Ryan used the n-word during a discussion on racism in the Dáil, however he said the Green Party leader’s intentions were good.

Ryan was quoting from an article written by Gallen, a director and writer, in the Irish Times yesterday about his experience of racism in Ireland.

In the piece, he discussed how he was first called the n-word when he was just six years old.

Ryan apologised after being widely criticised for using the racial slur when quoting Gallen.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Gallen said he was surprised to hear that the n-word had been used in the Dáil.

“It was quite a shock to hear him use the word. I think, looking at his intentions, you know I think they were really good, he was trying to bring up this big issue of racism within an Irish context in the Dáil.

“It’s just unfortunate and disappointing that he made such a misstep. But I think, you know, discussing these issues is often a minefield.

“I think that deters a lot of people from talking about it because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or using the wrong term. I think this fear stops people from having these necessary, uncomfortable conversations that we need to have.”

Gallen said he doesn’t believe Ryan said the word “with any intended malice or bad intention”.

“If you can look at your mistakes and try and correct them and move on, I think that’s the best we can do.

“We need to have these conversations so I hope it doesn’t stop people from discussing these issues and the problems in the future,” Gallen added.

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Gallen said there is “so much complex history and power structure within” the n-word.

“That just goes back to slavery, to colonisation, to subjugation. It just kind of lowers you, it others you … it removes you from everything that is considered, you know, white, Irish – you’re not part of that.”

Gallen said that when he was a child he didn’t know the full meaning of the n-word, but he knew it meant he was viewed as “beneath” others.

“I was beneath this other child. Obviously I was six, I didn’t know the whole history of slavery and colonisation at the time, but there’s still an indication that there’s an understanding there of what’s going on and the use of that word.

“And it was just the first of many times and it was something you, I won’t say you became used to it but it became an experience that you had again and again.”

Gallen said adults and schools need to teach children about why certain words and discriminatory language should not be used.

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Órla Ryan

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