Ban the Sham


Julian Brouwer

In New York

LOONY Americans are set to ban the Shamrock in Boston following complaints from minority groups.

They have bizarrely compared Ireland’s three-leafed emblem to the Nazi swastika.

Now the shamrock will become a thing of the past as the emblems are torn down from playgrounds, doors and windows in housing developments all over the city.

The decision has been made by Boston Housing Association following complaints from blacks and Hispanics.

Lydia Agro, BHA’s communications director said housing managers are advising residents that shamrocks and other “bias indicators” are offensive to some minority residents and should not be publicly displayed.

“There are a number of symbols that have been identified by some of our residents as making them uncomfortable and unwelcome,” she said.

“In response to those concerns, we’re including shamrocks along with swastikas, Confederate flags and other symbols which may give offence.

“We’re aware that symbols such as shamrocks can reflect racial and ethnic pride,” Miss Agro said.

“We respect that, but at the same time we want to promote a sense of community here. We’re asking our residents to avoid public displays of any bias indicators.”

The decision has been greeted with outrage by many of the city’s large population of Irish American residents.

Jean McDonald, who is leader of a residents group in Boston’s Mary Ellen McCormack Development, said elderly tenants are anxious about the policy.

She said it sent them the message that their traditions are no longer acceptable.

“Some of the women here already feel like they’re living in a prison colony,” she said. “Some of them have been here more than 20 years.

“You’d think they’d be entitled to some respect. Instead, they’re actually living in fear, not knowing what to expect next.”

James Kelly, president of the Boston City Council, said the percentage of whites and Irish Americans in the city’s public housing has been dropping sharply in recent years.

“There’s only a small number of Irish Americans left, mostly elderly on fixed income,” he said.

“Having them take down their shamrocks is a hateful way of letting them know their time has passed.

“Believe me, the ‘no Irish need apply’ mentality is very much alive and well at the BHA.”

According to Kelly, minority residents now constitute the majority of every family development in the city, and the BHA is administered almost exclusively by blacks and Hispanics.

Although the anti-shamrock policy was supposedly designed to foster harmony among a diverse population of residents, it is having the opposite effect.

But residents’ leader Jean McDonald is to defy the BHA ban by putting a wooden shamrock outside her home in the build-up to St Patrick’s Day.

“You’ll probably be seeing even more shamrocks around here now, and I hope we don’t have any violence over this,” added Miss McDonald.

Many residents are angry that the BHA is putting shamrocks and swastikas in the same category.

The shamrock, a trifoliate plant said to have been picked by St. Patrick as a symbol to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity, is regarded as the national emblem of Ireland, while the swastika is the anti-Semitic emblem of Nazi Germany.

Jeannie Flaherty from the McCormack development said that she’ll be putting a shamrock on her door any day now.

“I’d like to see someone try to get me to take it down,” she said. “There’s a Chinese man who lives across the hall with some kind of Oriental sign on his door.

“Maybe they should check that out when they come around to talk to me.”

A city youth worker added that shamrocks, which still adorn basketball courts and murals in the development, were symbols of pride when he was growing up there.

“Even the Italian kids wore shamrocks,” he said. “We had our differences, but we got along OK.

“Nowadays, the kids here would rather shoot heroin than basketballs.

“This place has been going downhill for years, and kids are literally dying from drugs. It’s a real sad situation, and the BHA’s talking about banning shamrocks?”

Sunday Mirror, February 18, 2001