Irish in Scotland at greatest risk from Covid-19


THE Irish community in Scotland has launched call for greater awareness of the risks it faces from the Covid-19 pandemic following the publication of data which shows it is most at risk of death from the virus.

Despite the elevated risk faced by those of Irish ethnicity, the report by National Records of Scotland provides no further analysis as it does with other communities. Community representatives have also reported that doubts are being cast on the quality of data on the Irish community with census data from 2011 having been cross-referred with data from less comprehensive sources, such as sample data from the Annual Population Survey.

Although there is uncertainty from National Records of Scotland, the report gathers clear data which show that 54 people of Irish ethnicity have died in Scotland, from a population of 54,090 according to the 2011 census. The South Asian community, comprising those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity—which numbered 48,811 in the 2011 census—also experience a greater risk of death from Covid-19. Along with the South Asian community the Chinese community—which experienced 9 deaths from a population of 16,310 in the 2011 census—were subject to further analysis in the report, raising awareness of the increased likelihood of death from Covid-19 among these ethnicities.

Open letter
However, despite a rate of one death per thousand for those identifying as of Irish ethnicity in the 2011 census, no further analysis of the risk faced by the Irish community was performed. In reaction to the report and the dearth of analysis on the Irish community risk, Irish community groups in Scotland, including Comhaltas, GAA Scotland, Call It Out: The Campaign Against Anti-Catholic Bigotry and Anti-Irish Racism, Coiste Cuimnheachain An Gorta Mór and Conradh na Gaeilge, signed an open letter to the Expert Reference Group and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The letter gathered the concerns of the community and highlighted the urgency in providing detail on the risk faced by the Irish community, in order to ensure protection can be provided for the ethnic group most at risk from death from Covid-19.

“The undersigned groups who represent sections of the Irish community in Scotland have noted the publication of the National Records of Scotland data on deaths from Covid 19 by ethnicity,” the letter said. “We note, with dismay, the fact that the report, while providing the number of deaths by Census ethnicity categories, fails to relate these to the size of the various communities and thereby fails to highlight the fact that the Irish community has the highest death rate of Covid-19 of any BAME group relative to its size in the population. The failure of the report to conduct further analysis (of the kind reported for some other communities) given the fact that we have the highest death rate, is a serious dereliction of the duty of government to our community and requires to be addressed.”

Following the publication of the data, Irish community representatives joined those from other ethnic minority groups in meeting with the National Records of Scotland experts in order to establish more about the statistics on minority groups. Standing in solidarity with other minority groups—who also offered their support to the Irish community as we seek clarity on the risk from Covid-19—the letter rejected the suggestion that uncertainty around the data may have led to the lack of further analysis.

“We have engaged with the NRS team in writing and in an online meeting organised by the Ethnic Minority National Resilience Network (EMNRN) ‘Data, Health & Social Outcomes Group Meeting’ [earlier this month],” the letter said. “The substance of this exchange is that the NRS team averred that they did not conduct further analysis for the Irish community because there was doubt re. the quality of the data for Irish ethnicity. We see no note in the report that such doubts have been investigated for other ethnic groups and, on consideration, we do not accept its validity.

“We note that the Scottish Government has set up an Expert Reference Group on Covid-19 and Ethnicity. We insist that our community’s status as an ethnic minority community of Scotland is understood and respected by ERG members and that we are given equal recognition alongside all other BAME communities in Scotland with whom we stand in solidarity during this challenging and difficult period. Furthermore, we request that a relative mortality risk assessment is carried out by NRS based upon the number of Irish deaths and our population share indicated in the 2011 census.

“This would ensure that Scotland’s devolved health institutions have sight of this vulnerability, that this information informs future public health messaging in respect of an acceleration of virus spread and crucially that these citizens are afforded the dignity of what was identified as their ethnicity by loved ones or by themselves. To ensure that the problem of non-recognition is tackled appropriately we also call on Scottish Ministers, NRS and all other relevant bodies to unambiguously recognise us, as we do, as an ethnic minority community of Scotland.”

Recording and analysis
The issue has further highlighted the need for authorities to improve their recording and analysis of the Irish community and the trends which affect them more greatly than other ethnicities in Scotland. With the next census due to take place in 2021, the confusion among authorities regarding the level of Covid-19 mortality has underlined the need for the Irish community to ensure that it records itself accurately in such data and has the opportunity to do so through other official forms of information gathering.

“We, as a community, have become inured to being ignored by government and excluded from discussions which affects our lives and well-being, but we are now calling on the Scottish Government, without further delay, to begin to engage with us; to ensure that the reasons behind the high death rate are investigated and understood and to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the Irish community in Scotland,” the letter concluded. “The first step in that process is to ensure that government engages with our community in the same way that they engage with other minority communities and that is to recognise us; to consult with us; to listen to us.”

When approached by The Irish Voice for clarification National Record for Scotland confirmed that their uncertainty in assessing the Irish community had resulted in a lack of detailed analysis, and that no further analysis into the threat to the Irish community from Covid-19 was foreseeable at this stage.