Work harder to end racism. Learn lessons of Holocaust
(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)
Tonight I won’t sleep for fear of nightmares because tomorrow has become one of the toughest days in my life and has been for several years.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 27th January 2015) is International Holocaust Memorial Day when many across the globe remember the six million who perished in Nazi death camps in the 1930s and 1940s.
But it will have added significance as tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of one of the most notorious camps, Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland, where more than a million humans were murdered.
After almost 37 years in journalism, I thought the Irish conflict had enabled me to experience every emotion imaginable. Wrong! I still have nightmares about the visit to that place of mass genocide; that’s why I want to stay awake for all of tonight, so the nightmares won’t come back.
As I started on the Auschwitz tour to write my article, I was physically ill. Passing through the camp gates with its sickening iron sign in German, I had to rush back into the visitor’s centre and vomit.
Hitler’s SS had its genocide machine at Auschwitz down to a fine art – butchering 3,000 people every half hour. Just imagine everyone killed in the Troubles dying in only 30 minutes.
Nothing in life ever prepares you to confront racism. I once spent 18 months researching a two-part series on links between republicanism and the evil Ku Klux Klan in the US.
But one of the KKK’s supporters lived in Ireland and within hours they had traced me, forcing me to leave the North until the heat of the story cooled.
Officially, I was taking my annual leave. In reality, I was getting out of Ireland on the best plane available. I stayed at a camp site in Jersey. Ironically, the Klan nearly had its own vengeance on me because I almost blew myself apart lighting a camping stove!
One of the creepiest moments of my career hunting racists came when I interviewed former British National Party (BNP) MEP Nick Griffin, then Chairman of the National Front (NF), over lunch.
He was accompanied by a few senior cronies. He handed me a booked entitled Attempted Murder, which basically was a rant about people opposing the NF.
I almost puked over Griffin during that working lunch when I discovered a half page on myself, claiming my articles exposing the Front were “lurid publicity designed to frighten the NF away from involvement in Ulster”.
I’ve always pondered if Griffin knew I was the John Coulter criticised in the NF’s ‘wee black book’ and this was his way of letting me know I was being watched.
Or maybe it was just one of those strange coincidences in life where Griffin happened to give one of the NF’s strongest critics a copy of its silly, but sinister wee book.
Worse was to follow when after another of my exposes, the NF retaliated by publishing my name and home address along with a photo of me in its hatesheet, National Front News.
The Front did its homework well, carrying precise details of my employment, university career, trade union role and details of my dad’s political activities.
The RUC gave me lectures on personal security, but eventually I knew I would have to leave home as the NF shoved a copy of the hatesheet with this ‘expose’ on me through my home letterbox.
Then a Klan source from the Knights of the Invisible Empire took great exception to an article I wrote entitled ‘The Orange Swastika – the rise of new millennium Loyalist Nazism.’
This so-called Grand Dragon arrived at my doorstep, issuing the immortal words: “You don’t blow my cover, and we won’t blow up your house!”
My message to politicians, church and community leaders is simple – I have personally suffered for my stand against racism, so please do not bore me with pious words of condemnation.
Take positive action and get those tougher laws I want against hate crime. I don’t want racism to become Ireland’s new sectarianism.
January 28, 2015