All day, the same thing. The same tune. The same words. The same old story. Over and over in my head:
“Living under suspicion
Putting up with the hatred and fear in their eyes
You can see that you’re nothing but a murderer
In their eyes, we’re nothing but a bunch of murderers”
The spectacular Paul Brady, writing in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as an Irishman coming to England – making the journey that millions had made before him, including my grandfather. Brady’s shadow, like so many Irish folk in that era, especially from the north, was cast by the IRA. Their terror in Ireland never hit home as much on this side of the Irish Sea until they brought their murder to the ‘mainland’. Then it all changed. It became real for people here and the suspicion spread. There are places here now whose history is synonymous with the worse of this time; Guildford, Birmingham, Warrington and Manchester.
I am immensely proud to be Irish; to have the good fortune of Irish relatives who by their birth on that special island allowed this scouser to claim his right to Irish citizenship and an Irish passport. I am lucky too that I met my best friend and married her – and luckily still that she too is Irish. Now, Mrs J knows all too well the suspicion and prejudice that Paul Brady wrote of; the second looks, the concern on faces when her accent was detected, the pretending not to understand what she had said. By the way, that still happens to her sometimes, even here in the foothills of Ireland’s second city in Liverpool. The stupid Irishman jokes, the impressions and attempts at the accents – the ignorance – still linger. Some of this is the fear of outsiders or the unknown, which is felt all around the world about different people and groups, but some of this is what our muslim brothers and sisters are feeling now in Manchester and elsewhere following Monday night’s massacre.
Neither Mrs J, her family, or me and my family could ever be held responsible for the terror of the IRA; nor could all Irish people or catholics be blamed for their murderous acts. But yet we know that secretly we were – by some. Quiet discrimination, the unspoken words, the glances and the nods and winks between those who felt threatened were always around – sometimes below the surface, sometimes not.
The words of Brady and the history of the Irish on these islands is a mirror being held up to the muslim community today. I will not use the murderer’s name – he does not deserve one – but are we saying that his acts are the acts of a muslim or someone inspired by Islam? Of course not. I say that with certainty but I know that some people do not agree. Some people today have been saying this in public and private to their eternal shame. Muslims in Manchester, or anywhere else, are no more to blame for Manchester’s Monday than Mrs J and her family were in the 1970’s, 1980’s or since, because they shared a passport or a religion with a murderer.
We were visited on Monday evening by a criminal; a sick, deranged, medieval criminal. He was no more a muslim, or practising Islam, than an IRA bomber was a good catholic for going to Mass. It should not need saying but judging by some of the discourse knocking around today it does. I suggest anyone hearing this bile should point the fool to Paul Brady, a history book of these islands and the door.