CALL It Out: The Campaign Against Anti-Catholic Bigotry and Anti-Irish Racism have launched a call for recognition for the Irish community in Scotland following the lack of meaningful government response to the ongoing evidence which details the disproportionate effect Covid-19 is having on the community.
Meeting online, the committee of Call It Out reviewed the most pressing issues facing the Irish in Scotland today and shared their shock at the response from the Scottish Government to the unfolding crisis and the clear need for representative groups to be consulted by government in order to tackle the issues facing the Irish in Scotland.
Following their efforts, representatives of the Irish community were able to meet with a civil servant to outline and share their concerns, however Call It Out report that the discussion has failed, so far, to produce any effective response and a meeting with the Equalities Minister, Christina McKelvie MSP (above) has still not been offered.
Updating supporters of the campaign, Call It Out shared the details of the meeting they hosted for the committee and explained the changes in their work due to the social restrictions which have been put in place across Scotland throughout most of 2020.
“The committee of CIO met (virtually) last week and reviewed our activity since March together with our plans for the next few months,” they explained.
“The Covid-19 crisis clearly removed the need for us to monitor and respond to anti-Catholic marches past Catholic churches. We have continued to respond to press and media enquiries as necessary.”
However, the major focus of the meeting was on the ongoing situation, which sees the Irish community in Scotland disproportionately affected by Covid-19, and the fight to have the Irish community acknowledged by authorities.
“Over the past two months, we have been responding to the report from the National Records of Scotland on Covid-19 deaths and ethnicity, which revealed that the Irish community has suffered the highest number of deaths of any minority ethnic group—and highest death rate as a percentage of our Census 2011 population size,” Call It Out reported. “We engaged with the NRS to ask about any plans to follow up this analysis—as they have with other ethnic groups—to explore this figure further.
“They have made it clear that they have no intention of doing any further work in relation to our community. Moreover, their report was then used by the Expert Reference Group on Covid-19 and ethnicity set up by the Scottish Government.
“They have also shown a persistent and obdurate refusal to acknowledge and, more importantly plan a response to, the impact on the Irish community of Covid-19. The seemingly absolute refusal of Scottish Government-funded groups to acknowledge our existence and to address the issues which affect us—including matters of life and death— has shocked even those of us who have observed this over decades.
“In response, we, along with a number of other Irish groups wrote to the Expert Reference Group and to the Equalities Minister
“The Minister, Christina McKelvie, refused to meet with us. We did have a meeting with a civil servant from the Equality Unit of the Scottish Government a fortnight ago today, in which we outlined our long-standing concerns, asked for further information about the ERG and asked to be included in future in discussions which affect us as a community— especially in terms of the development of the next Race Equality Action plan.
“Moreover, we proposed ways in which the contribution of our community to Scotland could be acknowledged and celebrated to try to develop a more positive relationship than we have now. As of today we have had no response.”
Reacting to the accusation from Call It Out that the minister refused to meet with them, the Scottish Government responded to questions by The Irish Voice by saying that such meetings are not always possible.
“Unfortunately, Ministers cannot meet with every group/organisation which asks for a meeting,” a spokesperson said. “A meeting was offered with officials and this took place on October 13, 2020.”
Respect and recognition
However, Call It Out rejected this explanation by the Scottish Government and reiterated their call for the Irish community in Scotland to be given the same respect and access by the Scottish Government as other minority communities can rightly expect.
“If any other minority community, on being told by the National Records of Scotland that they have the highest number of Covid-19 deaths, had asked for a meeting with the Equalities Minister, that meeting would have been granted,” they told The Irish Voice. “Of that we are 100 per cent certain. The Scottish Government are fooling no-one with this generic and insulting response.”
Issues of recognition were further discussed by members of the committee, who identified the need for greater recognition for anti-Irish racism in wider society.
With a greater focus on racism in a year which has seen high-profile demonstrations and campaigns for equality, Call It Out have raised concerns that a focus purely on colour is leaving many communities out of the discussion on how racism affects their lives.
“In a related matter, we have now become aware that a number of public and third sector bodies in Scotland have decided to adopt a definition of racism which is both more restrictive than the definition contained in both national and international statute and which explicitly excludes our community and others, such as the Gypsy Traveller and Roma communities, the Polish community and other minority communities,” Call It Out said. “We fully acknowledge the racism experienced by our sisters and brothers of colour and stand in solidarity with them.
“On that basis we will not allow division to be sown between us by any attempt to interfere with the rights under the law of any of us or the obligations of state and civic society to any of our communities. We will report on this issue as it develops.”
To continue their work effectively, Call It Out are all preparing to develop their fundraising capabilities, which will allow them to raise the money required to develop their online presence and communicate and organise more effectively within their community..
Supporters of the campaign will soon have the opportunity to donate in support of Call It Out, as well as becoming more formally associated with the campaign by becoming a member.
“Future updates will include information on our new website and associated funding appeal and the development of our membership/supporter structure” Call It Out concluded. “Please email us with any queries or issues you wish to raise.”