Of St Vincent De Paul and Racist Echoes

Evening Echo

I left the following comment on the Facebook page of Cork’s Evening Echo, which showed the above image of its front page. Note the ‘You got it right, Neil!’ item on the right hand side, referring to the racist comments of DJ Neil Prendeville, who said on his Cork96FM show that “we have created a country that has people who won’t work now joined by people who cant work, we provide medical cards to Africans while irish children go sick because their working parents can’t afford a doctor’s visit or prescription, we provide social welfare to former Russians and childrens allowance to kids living in eastern Europe“. The remarks of the St Vincent De Paul boss reported on the Evening Echo are in precisely the same vein.

Disgraceful racist remarks. This is one of the reasons why I am against charity. I agree with the words of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano: “I don’t believe in charity; I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from top to bottom.”

In Ireland there is a weak understanding of social rights, not least because the constitution calls for charity to inform all the State’s institutions. The effect of this is that Department of Social Protection or whatever it is called nowadays treats the people it is supposed to serve as charity cases, and agencies such as St Vincent De Paul operate as de facto State agencies. Hence they never call into question the decisive political power of the rich over government priorities. The overall amount allocated to overseas aid is a political choice. Whatever amount is available is decided against other areas of government spending.

Look at the tens of billions spent on bailing out banks: this shows that the government is prioritising the health of the financial sector over the health of the population. But you won’t hear charities challenging this because they won’t challenge the legitimacy of the government, since they are effectively part of the State. Instead they identify with the priorities of the State, and with privileging one group of people over another in the final instance: because charity is ultimately about privilege and the denial of rights. So if the State uses racist criteria, so too will charities.

See previous posts on charity:



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