The Irish have a long tradition of emigration to Britain. But how well do the British understand the Irish? In multi-cultural Britain is there any effort to tell the full story of the Irish?
London education authorities are anxious that the Irish and other ethnic groups be understood in Britain.
There are now new moves to promote a greater awareness of the many ethnic groups living and working in Britain. The London Irish Commission for Cultural Education along with local education authorities have launched a programme in British schools called 'Irish Perspectives'. Brendan Mulkere, outlines how the objective of the programme is integration by breaking down the ghettoisation of immigrants in society. He feels that the curriculum must change to reflect society as it is outside of schools.
According to Mulkere
If you consider the identity of an Asian child or an Irish child is separate and is different from that of a white Anglo-Saxon child. If the child feels that his/her history and heritage is demeaned in some way by being omitted or by not being explored in the way that perhaps British history has been explored in the past, they will not have the confidence or they may suffer under stereotypes.
Limerick born Jimmy Dunne grew up in London and is now Head of History at a North London school. According to Dunne he experienced the prejudice of being Irish while growing up, and this prejudice is common to other ethnic groups in Britain.
The Irish being thick and aggressive, etc. etc.
Some of Dunne's students have done studies of ethnic stereotypes, using the Irish as a case in point.
I think the Irish are sort of generally portrayed as being dumb and drunk, and much of stems back to English attitudes towards the Irish in say the 16th, 17th centuries... That portrayal being extended into things like jokes and TV series.
Other stereotypes found in the study include Blacks being aggressive, and Asians owning the corner shop, all of which are taught to children from a young age.
One student points out that,
The worst consequence of all this is when people are afraid of what they are.
Brendan Mulkere argues that if the Irish are to be understood in Britain, then it is up to the Irish to provide the relevant information.
This episode of 'Evening Extra' was broadcast on 5 February 1987.