There's always someone in trouble in this country of ours. Today, it's the turn of Mary
O'Rourke. She hasn't hit the headlines in a while, but she's made front page news today.
Having gained third place selection in the Fianna Fail general election for
Longford/Westmeath, she thanked her campaign workers profusely for all the hard work they'd
done and said that they'd worked "like blacks". No sooner had the phrase escaped from her
mouth than the entire country was jumping down her throat asking her to explain her choice
It seems to me that we're absolutely terrified of being perceived as racist in Ireland, to
the extent that political correctness can escalate out of all reasonable proportions. Does
nobody remember the era when people used that phrase on a day-to-day basis without any
racist intent? There are probably people all over the country who still do. Contrary to
public opinion, the old Ireland still exists in places. The Ireland where people use phrases
like "working like blacks" with the innocent intention of stating that someone works hard.
The Ireland where people can complete a sentence without stuttering, stopping, restarting or
fluffing their words because they're being so bloody careful about what they're saying, they
can't even say things properly anymore. The Ireland where every word that's uttered isn't
measured and assessed for PC-ness. Mary O'Rourke is part of that old Ireland. She's a 68
year old woman, a very capable and intelligent 68 year old woman, and a woman who is of a
different generation where you were brought up saying things like that. When Joe Higgins
discussed the privatisation of Aer Lingus in the Dail last year, Conor Lenihan famously told
him to "stick with the kebabs" (referring to Turkish workers). This comment was overtly
meant to offend a minority, whereas Mary O'Rourke made use of a stock phrase that was
widespread in her generation. I'm sure she copped immediately that it wasn't a very clever
thing for a woman in her position to say, but that doesn't mean there was any malicious
intent behind the comment.
Sometimes, we need to just get over ourselves.