by Alan Jacques
One 30-year-old shop-owner told the Limerick Post this week that she is “stressed out” when opening her premises on William Street every day because of the level of verbal abuse she and her staff experience from customers.
The city centre business has been in operation for nine years and the owner claims racial attacks have increased in recent months.
A past pupil of Scoil Carmel, the woman who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, is Irish born and bred. Of Pakistani descent, she is the third generation of her family born in Limerick, and is deeply hurt by the increase in racist attacks in her native city.
This Limerick woman has been spat at, had her life threatened, suffered racist slurs, her car vandalised on numerous occasions, and now constantly fears for her family’s safety.
“People — mostly men aged anywhere from 16 to their thirties — come in and they tell me to shut up that this is their country as they pull stuff out of packaging and do as they please. They have no respect and I’m very hurt that they would treat a woman like this. They’ve also called my husband horrible names like ‘terrorist’ and ‘Paki c**t’,” the distressed business owner told the Limerick Post.
“Three girls attacked one of my staff one day. This not only upsets my staff but my customers too. We get called names in the shop 10 or 12 times every day. They’ve told me to ‘go f**k myself’ and threatened to kill me. I’m worried now that one day these threats will become real. I’m very scared for my family,” she confessed.
The woman’s car has been vandalised on three separate occasions with the wing mirrors pulled off. She has now given up getting them repaired. Meanwhile, vandalism, robberies, verbal abuse and threat of lawsuits at her place of business have become part of the average working day.
“I was born in Limerick. This is my country – I’m Irish. I can’t sleep with the constant worry. The Gardai take five to six hours to get here when we report an incident. No one is taking us seriously.”
Another Pakistani shop owner on William Street, whose family settled in the city and opened their business a decade ago, was equally distraught by the recent increase in racial abuse.
“They feel they have a right to come in and steal from us and tell us that this is their country not ours. It is very upsetting. The call me ‘Paki’ and are constantly coming in and pretending to fall or have an accident so they can claim off us. We’ve had at least 10 lawsuits in the last few years; solicitors letters are arriving every week,” he reveals.
An Indonesian woman who has worked and lived in Limerick for the last 15 years became visibly upset as she spoke of the racist incidents. Dressed in traditional Muslim hijab, the 40-year-old woman said she has managed to cope by bottling up the pain these racist attacks cause her.
“People come into the restaurant where I work and when they see me they just walk out. It really upsets me. If these people came to my country they would be welcomed and treated with respect. I don’t think it’s a lack of education but they simply cannot accept us, cannot accept globalisation. They are not mature enough,” she said.
Asian business owners in the city say they now want to see a greater Garda presence on William Street during the day.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD, Kieran O’Donnell, whose constituency office is on William Street, said it is not acceptable that anyone would have to endure abuse in their place of business or anywhere else.
“My own office is on William Street, where there is a strong community of traders and businesses with a tradition going back years,” said Deputy O’Donnell.
Doras Luimní also said it is alarmed to hear of the reports of racism in Limerick shops. The human rights and advocacy group for migrants encourage anyone who has experienced racism and discrimination to report it to An Garda Siochana and/or Doras Luimní by calling 061-310318, emailing [email protected] or online at www.iReport.ie.