AN unsuccessful local election candidate seeking a ‘burka ban’ has been dismissed by a UCC lecturer as having “no place in politics.”
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at University College Cork, Dr Amanullah De Sondy, was reacting to former lord mayor Joe O’Callaghan’s defeat last weekend.
Mr O’Callaghan, who ran in this election as an independent after failing to win the Fine Gael nomination, secured 476 first preference votes putting him in 12th position.
Dr De Sondy had taken a stand against Mr O’Callaghan’s controversial views around burkas in the run-up to the election. Mr O’Callaghan had described them as a security risk, adding that there was no reason why people should hide their face in public.
While the UCC lecturer welcomed news of Mr O’Callaghan’s defeat he said that more needs to be done to tackle discrimination in Cork.
“It would be presumptuous to make the conclusion that this alone lost him votes,” Dr De Sondy said. “As a society, we still have a lot to think about. Our aim should not be to silence the people with these political views. Instead, we should try to challenge them. If you look at a number of political debates immigrants are talked about, but they are not part of the discussion and this is something that needs to change.”
He spoke of the importance of an inclusive society. “The fact that this person wasn’t elected is a positive step,” he added. “This has only served to highlight the fact that there is no space for politicians like this. However, it has also left us with a lot of soul searching to do on what it means to be Irish. Inclusion is the hallmark of any good society. Cork is on a trajectory to something great, yet these sort of political candidates continue to capitalise on division.”
Dr De Sondy said he did not believe Mr O’Callaghan’s remarks were an accurate reflection of Cork people’s views. “I was standing up for the values that I feel are Irish. We have Irish diaspora all over the world who we embrace and even capitalise on. A discussion needs to be opened up about the idea that identities can be complicated. You can have an American whose Irish ancestry dates back generations coming back to trace their roots.
“Much of the time they view themselves as Irish and are accepted as that. However, you can just as easily have an Irish person with Pakistani roots who is viewed differently.”
“There’s a danger that society has become selective about who is part of that inner circle. Muslims have become an easy target. What we need to realise is that we’re all in this together. This is a wonderful time for diversity in Cork to thrive. However, there is still resistance and we need to address this collectively. We need to look at who we are as a society.”