Imelda May poem ‘You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish’ to be displayed on billboards across Ireland
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Imelda May poem ‘You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish’ to be displayed on billboards across Ireland

IMELDA MAY’S powerful poem You Don't Get To Be Racist And Irish is set to be displayed on billboards across Ireland. 

The Dublin singer’s anti-racism poem will take centre stage on 200 billboards across the country. 

It’s all to coincide with the launch of Rethink Ireland, a new equality fund set up to help those most affected by inequality. 

Announcing the campaign, Rethink Ireland pledged to "support organisations & groups that empower marginalised communities and tackle systemic inequality." 

Speaking to the Irish IndependentMay explained more about the message behind the poem while expressing her delight it had been chosen to front the campaign. 

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She said: "We are all human and so must show our humanity to each other, otherwise what are we? 

"I'm delighted that my poem is being linked to this campaign. 

"I'm really glad that the poem has sparked some conversation and I'm grateful that I've had the words to be able to write it. 

"But I think at the moment, now is not the time to hear my voice. It's time to hear the voices of those that need to be heard." 

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US and the nationwide protests that followed it, people across Ireland reflected on their country’s own issues with race.  

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It led to mass demonstrations in Dublin and cities like Galway and Cork as well as acknowledgement among leaders across the political divide that change is required.  

May’s poem offers up a unique insight and perspective on the issue.  

It served as a wake-up call and reminder that Ireland’s own history of being on the receiving end of oppression makes racism on these shores inexcusable.  

“You don’t get to be proud of your heritage, plights, and fights for freedom while kneeling on the neck of another,” May writes in a pointed reference to Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of a US cop.  

“We emigrated, we immigrated. We took refuge, so cannot refuse when it’s our time to return the favour,” she states at another point in the piece, reminding people across Ireland of their duty not only as citizens but human beings to do better. 

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A powerful response to the historic events, You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish can be read, in full, below: 
  

You don’t get to be racist and Irish  

You don’t get to be proud of your heritage,  

plights and fights for freedom  

while kneeling on the neck of another!  

You’re not entitled to sing songs  

of heroes and martyrs  

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mothers and fathers who cried  

as they starved in a famine  

Or of brave hearted  

soft spoken  

poets and artists  

lined up in a yard  

blindfolded and bound  

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Waiting for Godot  

and point blank to sound  

We emigrated  

We immigrated  

We took refuge  

So cannot refuse  

When it’s our time  

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To return the favour  

Land stolen  

Spirits broken  

Bodies crushed and swollen  

unholy tokens of Christ, Nailed to a tree  

(That) You hang around your neck  

Like a noose of the free  

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Our colour pasty  

Our accents thick  

Hands like shovels  

from mortar and bricklaying  

foundation of cities  

you now stand upon  

Our suffering seeps from every stone  

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your opportunities arise from  

Outstanding on the shoulders  

of our forefathers and foremother’s  

who bore your mother’s mother  

Our music is for the righteous  

Our joys have been earned  

Well deserved and serve  

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to remind us to remember  

More Blacks  

More Dogs  

More Irish.  

Still labelled leprechauns, Micks, Paddy’s, louts  

we’re shouting to tell you  

our land, our laws  

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are progressively out there  

We’re in a chrysalis  

state of emerging into a new  

and more beautiful Eire/era  

40 Shades Better  

Unanimous in our rainbow vote  

we’ve found our stereotypical pot of gold  

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and my God it’s good.  

So join us.. 'cause  

You Don’t Get To Be Racist And Irish.