Now, isn’t it high time we had a Traveller Taoiseach

There is a great feeling around the world today, that at last the good guys have won out, that the forces of oppression that kept the White House out of the grasp of the non-whites (Condi and Colin Powell excepted ) have at last been overtaken in a mass coming together of goodness. And we are all entitled to feel proud of what has been achieved in the US, that yet another barrier has been broken, that like in South Africa, another last bastion of inherent apartheid has been shattered and that the American dream has been taken one step further. And all over the world, those who supported Obama are patting themselves on the back and are rightly proud of what this suave senator has achieved in just a few short years, even if he has been helped by the ineptitude of his opponents, but then as Napoleon said, every battle requires a large amount of luck. And all around the world, (and especially here in Old and New Europe ) there is a sort of snobbery that it has taken so long for this supposedly sophisticated democracy to allow access to its top post to a person from a minority culture. When Sarah Palin emerged, the same people laughed at her ordinary-ness and at the fact she had not travelled much beyond her own continent. And so we are thinking that at last America is thinking like the rest of us. But in reality, that is not the case. This election has shown that they are ahead. The victory has been welcomed by the luvvies. And those who proclaim themselves liberal. And we all like to think of ourselves as liberal as nobody wants to think that their mind is anything but free and open to new ideas. But let’s see just how liberal we are here in Ireland. How likely is it that a Traveller will ever emerge as a leader of our Government? You would get long odds on that, especially since many of the basic rights long denied the African-American community are the ones that they have to face life without? For many years, parents were put off schools that catered generously for Travellers. And so denied education, they are denied opportunity and fairness, and so throughout life, they are prohibited from achieving what others can. You can be sure that many of the people who stayed up all night to celebrate the dawning of a new era with the election of Obama would be less than impressed if a convoy of Travellers pitched up on their local football pitch. It always amazes me how concerned people get for the welfare of Travellers when they pitch up on the front lawn. In Ireland, often the word RACISM is misspelt NIMBY. You can also be sure that the people who ring in here with short messages every time we put a person who is non-national in a prominent photograph; that the people who think twice before using a taxi being driven by a person who is not a Caucasian; may too have gone around today with a warm feeling in their hearts about Obama, glad that one form of racism has been tackled, but also enforcing the stereotyping that we create every day. We all play a role in determining and preserving stereotypes — this is done through the business of advertising, through the business of media, but mostly through the business of life. Only when the day comes that we can truly say that every person in this country has the same opportunity to sit in the Taoiseach’s seat in Leinster House or to become President of our own country, will we be really sharing in the principles that Barack Obama and Martin Luther King have both espoused, but who have so far never got the chance to put into practice. Remember, it is not just America that Obama has to change. We all have to play our own part.

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