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Anti-Irish sentiment or Hibernophobia may refer to or include persecution, discrimination, hatred or fear of the Irish as an ethnic or national group, whether directed against Ireland in general or against Irish immigrants and their descendants in the Irish diaspora.
It is traditionally rooted in the medieval period, and is also evidenced in Irish immigration to other countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Anti-Irish feeling can include both social and cultural discrimination within the island of Ireland itself, such as sectarianism or ethno-political conflicts in The Troubles of Northern Ireland.
Discrimination and racism towards Irish Travellers, an Irish minority group, is evident in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Such racism is open and can be compared to that experienced by the Irish diaspora politics of the 19th century, with the hanging of signs in private establishments in Ireland stating "No Travellers" in the same style as "No Irish Need Apply". The European Parliament Committee of Enquiry on racism and xenophobia found them to be amongst the most discriminated-against ethnic groups in Ireland.
The negative stereotyping of the Irish began with the Norman propagandist Giraldus Cambrensis also known as Gerald of Wales. He wrote disparagingly of the Irish to justify the Norman invasion of Ireland. "Gerald was seeking promotion by Henry II within the English church. His history was therefore written to create a certain effect—of supporting Henry II's claims to Ireland."
Hostility increased towards the Irish who steadfastly remained Roman Catholic, in spite of coercive force by Henry VIII and his administration – as well as subsequent rulers to convert the Irish nation to Protestantism. Thus, a situation unusual in Western Europe developed where the religious majority were ruled over by a religious minority. Religious minorities were discriminated against all over Europe but in Ireland the majority of the people suffered discrimination from the minority ruling class. This led to endless social conflict, and, thus, the consequent dehumanizing of the vanquished Irish.
Many concerted efforts were made by English Protestant churches to evangelize the Irish but each attempt ended in failure and they publicly blamed their failures on the people they were trying to convert. In the middle of the 19th century when a great famine (caused by economic mismanagement and disrespect) struck, many saw it as God punishing the Irish for not converting to Protestantism.
Therefore most of the negative stereotyping of the Irish is rooted in the politics of cuius regio, eius religio, a principle that held that every ruler had the right to dictate what religion their subjects should believe in.
Middle Ages to Early Modern Era
Negative English attitudes towards the Gaelic Irish and their culture date as far back as the reign of Henry II of England. In 1155 Pope Adrian IV issued the papal bull called Laudabiliter, that gave Henry permission to conquer Ireland as a means of strengthening the Papacy's control over the Irish Church. Pope Adrian called the Irish a "rude and barbarous" nation. Thus, the Norman invasion of Ireland began in 1169 with the backing of the Papacy. Pope Alexander III, who was Pope at the time of the invasion, ratified the Laudabiliter and gave Henry dominion over Ireland. He likewise called the Irish a "barbarous nation" with "filthy practises".
Gerald of Wales accompanied King Henry's son, John, on his 1185 trip to Ireland. As a result of this he wrote Topographia Hibernica ("Topography of Ireland") and Expugnatio Hibernia ("Conquest of Ireland"), both of which remained in circulation for centuries afterwards. Ireland, in his view, was rich; but the Irish were backward and lazy:
They use their fields mostly for pasture. Little is cultivated and even less is sown. The problem here is not the quality of the soil but rather the lack of industry on the part of those who should cultivate it. This laziness means that the different types of minerals with which hidden veins of the earth are full are neither mined nor exploited in any way. They do not devote themselves to the manufacture of flax or wool, nor to the practice of any mechanical or mercantile act. Dedicated only to leisure and laziness, this is a truly barbarous people. They depend on their livelihood for animals and they live like animals.
Gerald was not atypical, and similar views may be found in the writings of William of Malmesbury and William of Newburgh. When it comes to Irish marital and sexual customs Gerald is even more biting: "This is a filthy people, wallowing in vice. They indulge in incest, for example in marrying – or rather debauching – the wives of their dead brothers". Even earlier than this Archbishop Anselm accused the Irish of wife swapping, "exchanging their wives as freely as other men exchange their horses".
One will find these views echoed centuries later in the words of Sir Henry Sidney, twice Lord Deputy of Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth I, and in those of Edmund Tremayne, his secretary. In Tremayne's view the Irish "commit whoredom, hold no wedlock, ravish, steal and commit all abomination without scruple of conscience". In A View of the Present State of Ireland, circulated in 1596 but not published until 1633, the English official and renowned poet Edmund Spenser wrote "They are all papists by profession but in the same so blindingly and brutishly informed that you would rather think them atheists or infidels". In a "Brief Note on Ireland," Spenser argued that "Great force must be the instrument but famine must be the means, for till Ireland be famished it cannot be subdued. . . There can be no conformitie of government whereis no conformitie of religion. . . There can be no sounde agreement betwene twoe equall contraries viz: the English and Irish".
This "civilising mission" embraced any manner of cruel and barbaric methods to accomplish its end goal. For instance, in 1305 Piers Bermingham received a financial bonus and accolades in verse after beheading thirty members of the O'Connor clan and sending them to Dublin. In 1317 one Irish chronicler opined that it was just as easy for an Englishman to kill an Irishman or English women to kill an Irish women as he/she would a dog. The Irish were thought of as the most barbarous people in Europe, and such ideas were modified to compare the Scottish Highlands or Gàidhealtachd where traditionally Scottish Gaelic is spoken to medieval Ireland.
In the Early Modern period following the advent of Protestantism in Great Britain, the Irish people suffered both social and political discrimination for refusing to renounce Catholicism. This prejudice sometimes manifested itself in areas with large Puritan or Presbyterian populations such as the northeastern parts of Ireland, the Central Belt of Scotland, and parts of Canada. Thinly veiled nationalism under the guise of religious conflict has occurred in both the UK and Ireland.
Anti-Irish racism in Victorian Britain and 19th century United States included the stereotyping of the Irish as alcoholics, and implications that they monopolised certain (usually low-paying) job markets. They were often called "white Negroes." Throughout Britain and the US, newspaper illustrations and hand drawings depicted a prehistoric "ape-like image" of Irish faces to bolster evolutionary racist claims that the Irish people were an "inferior race" as compared to Anglo-Saxons.
Similar to other immigrant populations, they were sometimes accused of cronyism and subjected to misrepresentations of their religious and cultural beliefs. The Irish were labelled as practising Pagans and in that time (19th century), anyone not being a "Christian" in a traditional British sense was deemed "immoral" and "demonic". Irish Catholics were particularly singled out, and Irish mythology, folklore, and customs were ridiculed.
In Liverpool where many Irish immigrants settled following the Great Famine, anti-Irish prejudice was widespread. The sheer numbers of people coming across the Irish sea and settling in the poorer districts of the city led to physical attacks and it became common practice for those with Irish accents or even Irish names to be barred from jobs, public houses and employment opportunities.
British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli stated publicly, "The Irish hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race have no sympathy with the English character. Their ideal of human felicity is an alternation of clannish broils and coarse idolatry. Their history describes an unbroken circle of bigotry and blood."
Nineteenth-century Protestant American "Nativist" prejudice against Irish Catholics reached a peak in the mid-1850s when the Know Nothing Movement tried to oust Catholics from public office. Much of the opposition came from Irish Protestants, as in the 1831 riots in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
During the 1830s, riots broke out in rural areas among rival labour teams from different parts of Ireland, and between Irish and "native" American work teams competing for construction jobs.
Irish Catholics were isolated and marginalised by society. Both ministers and priests discouraged intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants. In addition, the creation of a parochial school system and numerous colleges affiliated with the Church tended to compound rather than alleviate anti-Catholic discrimination.
After 1860 many Irish sang songs about signs reading "HELP WANTED – NO IRISH NEED APPLY"; these signs came to be known as "NINA signs." (This is sometimes written as "IRISH NEED NOT APPLY" and referred to as "INNA signs"). The 1862 song, "No Irish Need Apply", was inspired by NINA signs in London. Later Irish Americans adapted the lyrics, and the songs perpetuated the belief among Irish Americans that they were discriminated against.
Historians have hotly debated the issue of anti-Irish job discrimination in the United States. Some insist that the "No Irish need apply" signs were common, but one scholar, Richard Jensen, argues that anti-Irish job discrimination was not a significant factor in the United States, these signs and print advertisements being most commonly posted by the limited number of early 19th-century English immigrants to the United States who shared the prejudices of their homeland.
A 2004 report by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs stated that Irish soldiers in World War I were treated more harshly in courts-martial because British officers had "a racist bias against Irish soldiers".
Since the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921, there has been tension and violence between its two main communities. Most of the Irish nationalist/republican community are Catholic and see themselves as Irish, while most of the unionist/loyalist community are Protestant and see themselves as British. Since The Troubles began in the late 1960s, loyalists have occasionally expressed anti-Irish sentiment. Irish tricolours, daubed with the loyalist slogan "Kill All Irish" (KAI), have been burnt on the yearly Eleventh Night bonfires. In August 1993 the Red Hand Commando announced that it would attack pubs or hotels where Irish folk music is played, although it withdrew the threat shortly after. In 2000, loyalists made posters and banners that read "The Ulster conflict is about nationality. IRISH OUT!". Some of the Provisional IRA's bombings in England led to anti-Irish sentiment and attacks on the Irish community there. After the Birmingham pub bombings, for example, there was a wave of attacks on Irish people and Irish-owned businesses. In the 1990s, writers for the Daily Mail newspaper "called for Irish people to be banned from UK sporting events and fined for IRA disruption to public transport", one of numerous opinions expressed over many years which has led the Daily Mail to be accused by some in Ireland of publishing "some of the most virulently anti-Irish journalism in Britain for decades".
In 2002, English journalist Julie Burchill narrowly escaped prosecution for incitement to racial hatred, following a column in The Guardian where she described Ireland as being synonymous with "child molestation, Nazi-sympathising, and the oppression of women." Burchill had expressed anti-Irish sentiment several times throughout her career, announcing in the London journal Time Out that "I hate the Irish, I think they're appalling".
In 2012, The Irish Times carried a report on anti-Irish prejudice in Britain. It claimed that far-right British nationalist groups continued to use "anti-IRA" marches as "an excuse to attack and intimidate Irish immigrants". Shortly before the 2012 Summer Olympics, British athlete Daly Thompson made an anti-Irish statement on live television. When Thompson was shown an image of a runner with a misspelt tattoo, he said that the person responsible for the misspelling must have been Irish. The BBC issued an apology.
In March 2012 in Perth Australia, one classified ad placed by a bricklayer stated "No Irish Need Apply".
On 8 August 2012, an article appeared in Australian newspapers titled "Punch Drunk: Ireland intoxicated as Taylor swings towards boxing gold". The article claimed that Katie Taylor was not "what you'd expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who'd prefer a punch to a potato". The journalist who wrote it apologised for "indulging racial sterotypes". The following day, Australian commentator Russell Barwick asserted that athletes from Ireland should compete for the British Olympic team, likening it to "an Hawaiian surfer not surfing for the USA". When fellow presenter Mark Chapman explained that the Republic of Ireland was an independent state, Barwick remarked: "It's nothing but an Irish joke".
On 25 June 2013, In an Orange Order HQ in Everton, Liverpool an Irish Flag was burned. Considering that Liverpool is a city with many second and third-generation Irish immigrants, this was seen by members of Liverpool's Irish community as a hate crime.
In response to the relatively high numbers of Irish immigrants being murdered in Australia, the parents of one victim, David Greene, who was attacked and killed in August 2012, have issued wallet sized cards to be given to any Irish people travelling to Australia, with a list of the names and contact details for people who need help in the form of legal assistance or advice if they are attacked.
Irish Traveller discrimination
Irish Travellers are an indigenous minority present for centuries in Ireland, who suffer overt discrimination throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom. Similar in nature to antiziganism (prejudice against Romani people) in the United Kingdom and Europe. Anti-Traveller racism is similar to that experienced by the Irish during the diaspora of the 19th century, with media attack campaigns in the United Kingdom, and in Ireland using both national/local newspapers and radio. Irish Travellers in the Irish media have stated they are living in Ireland under an apartheid regime. In 2013, Irish journalist Jennifer O'Connell writing in the The Irish Times carried an article rasing the question 'Our casual racism against Travellers is one of Ireland's last great shames'. While there is a willingness to acknowledge that there is widespread prejudice towards Travellers in Irish society, and a recognition of discrimination against Travellers, there is still strong resistance among the Irish public to calling the treatment of Travellers racist. While discrimination may occur to Travellers in employment  and secondary school place allocation, it is limited.
Abuses of social systems like the housing scheme and resource teachers for Travellers in primary schools perpetuate the social conflict between Travellers and "the settled community" examples being burning down of houses allocated to the Travellers by the state due to Traveller feuds In 2013 a Traveller home in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal was destroyed by fire days before members of a Traveller family were due to move in. Local Councillor Pearse Doherty said the house was specifically targeted because it was to house a Traveller family and was destroyed due to a 'hatred of Travellers'. Another local Councillor Sean McEniff of Bundoran caused controversy and a complaint under the 'Incitement to Hatred Act' when he stated due to the houses initial purchase that Travellers “should live in isolation from the settled community.” and "I would not like these people (the family) living beside me,”.
The British television series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has been accused of bullying and an instigation of racial hatred against Irish Travellers in England. The series has faced a number of controversies, including allegations of racism in its advertising and instigating a rise in the rate of racially motivated bullying.
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- White ethnic
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- Stage Irish
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