Clannish – Who is missing out?


Who’s the driver ?

I totally hate getting taxis, I hate having to leave our car in town and I hate having to get back into town the next day to collect the car …. I hate taxis! (and I do admit to being quite odd at times ..)

After a long day on the Cork Gourmet trail sampling food and wine in so many great establishments followed by a few visits to some popular watering holes, getting a taxi home was a necessity.

I wasn’t really in the mood for small talk but our driver was a really pleasant, cheery guy from Pakistan. He asked us about our day and on the journey to Balincollig he shared with us some of his life stories and his love of Cork.

It turns out our driver was a senior bank official in Pakistan but found that when he came to Ireland this experience counted for nothing so he ended up spending a few years packing shelves in Tesco. Acknowledging his lack of progression he decided to save hard and invest in a business course in Ireland, which he felt might change perceptions of him.

Despite doing really well on his course his job prospects never improved and he found he was lucky to even get to interview stage. At admits now he has pretty much given up on his career dreams and has settled for his job driving a taxi.

Always upbeat in his intelligent conversation with us, he did hope that his two kids, who according to himself are as Irish as we are, (complete with Cork accents!) would have better luck than he did in fulfilling their full potential.

It upsets him that the Irish are so “clannish” and while not being considered for jobs he is more than qualified for is quite upsetting,  he really gets upset when some people get in his taxi and jump out again when they see he is coloured.

He reckons that he is experiencing now what the Irish experienced many moons ago in other countries.

In the back seat of his taxi I reflected on what he was saying to us and quite honestly I couldn’t disagree with him or offer any great words of wisdom. At the end of our ride home we shook his hand, gave him a decent tip and encouraged him to keep chatting, sharing his story and changing minds one by one.

To use his very politely chosen words, maybe we are “clannish” and I wonder are we sometimes missing out on the best people because of our prejudices?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

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43 Responses to “Clannish – Who is missing out?”

  1. Paul McMenamy Says:

    He is 100% correct, i’m very ashamed to admit. I see this all the time. Racism is alive and well in Ireland and especially so outside many urban areas. There are exceptions, yes. But having lived in a rural area for the last 10 years, I have personal experience of this clannishness too. And even my wike from the States, living here the past 17 years, and she has encountered this herself big time. Generalisations aside, Ireland needs to wake up, smell the coffee, and start behaving like the nation it sells itself to the world as – Cead Mile Failte – actions speak so much louder than words. And, remember, it’s lives that are affected by our thoughts, words and actions!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      We are all guilty of this one! As a nation it is all relatively new to us and while we tend to think we are great and friendly, I think we can often be quite the opposite.

  2. John Delea Says:

    And you think this only happens to “Coloured” people?

    That’s what this country does to a person who goes away and betters themselves. It beats them down because of it’s “Clannish” blow in mentality.

    I spent 15 yrs in London & have seen this many times since returning nine years ago, where I live. The mentality is embarrassing.

  3. Kerrie Ní Cheallacháin Says:

    I think he’s dead right – it’s an unfortunate trait in the Irish that sees many immigrants being sidelined for jobs that they are more than qualified to do. I don’t know how many taxi drivers I’ve met who are qualified accountants, etc that just haven’t been given a break in Ireland and it’s an awful thing to have to admit that the country you grew up in and love isn’t as welcoming as the Tourism Ireland advertising would have you believe.

    Now that I’m living in Australia, I can appreciate that the fact that there are so many opportunities open to me here. Being a non-Australian hasn’t counted against me in terms of finding jobs. If anything the Irish have the reputation of having a great work ethic. Unfortunately the reputation for being the ‘fighting irish’ has also preceded us and that can lead to some racist slurs. Racism, in all forms is alive and well and not just in ireland.

    I hope that taxi driver gets the break he so needs. Ireland need to embrace multi-culturalism in order to move forward and boost the economy with an experienced and intelligent labour force.

    Great post as always Greg!

  4. James O'Reilly Says:

    To counter some of that, picked up 2 hitchhikers yesterday, who were coming to the end of their 3 week Irish adventure. The two, from Slovenia, couldn’t have spoken more glowingly of the Irish and the welcome and friednliness they experienced. I expressed that perhaps we are too quick to knock ourselves and that when push comes to shove their is huge generosity of spirit within us.

    The taxi driver has become deflated, understandably, but whose to say his skills weren’t transferable. And with my wife being Polish, I know a lot of the Polish community in Cork, many of whom are very qualified and yet work menial jobs, but they cant find the same opportunities at home either, and they are in the same boat as many, many Irish professionals at the moment, so a bit of perspective is needed perhaps.

    The Irish are very clannish, but they are clannish within their workplace, within their sports club, within their community, we all know cliques within our circles, and quite often we are not aware of the cliques we operate within ourselves, its all human nature and it certainly can flavour job recruitment or choices etc, but i genuinely don’t believe there is any underlying racism in the majority of situations such as the taxi drivers – clannishness for sure, but not racism.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      thanks James for the great post.

      I don’t think we are the worst but I do feel we are at the beginning of a learning curve (which is quite natural I guess) in dealing with “foreigners”. The fact that Ireland is doing so bad and unemployment is so high is probably escalating the possibility of negative sentiment and clannish behaviour.

      What do you think>

      • Paul McMenamy Says:

        This is a good illustration of how the Irish are perceived as friendly etc. Yes, we are, to casual tourists but this is very easy to do. When it comes to developing mature long-term relationships it’s often a very different story. I’ve said it before, I believe it strongly: Irish people lack emotional maturity and need to stop behaving the way it’s been for the past 100+ years. This requires self-honesty and work and risk-taking – but it’s the only way forward for the nation to progress.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        thanks Paul – now we are rolling the sleeves up and really getting into the topic ! Will this change happen naturally?

      • James O'Reilly Says:

        When you get the chance Greg put something up on Pauls great last line, which I believe should have further discussion and i don’t want to go off topic.

        And i will backtrack a little and say i can see evidence of the lack of long term relationships alright, yet i still hold that clannishness emerges regardless of race, or sex or religion, but perhaps out of some base ideological chemistry or just plain instinct.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        Paul made a great point about what Ireland needs to progress – ” This requires self-honesty and work and risk-taking – but it’s the only way forward for the nation to progress”

        How do we make this happen?

  5. socialbridge Says:

    Hi Greg, I’m so glad you got that taxi and chatted to the driver. Like James before me, I think that this is a broader issue than racism per se. There are many, many people in Ireland, including Irish people, who are in the same boat as the taxi-driver. The waste to the economy and the country generally of under-using the talent and expertise that we have is sinful. It behoves us all to try and identify strategies to ensure that people can work in jobs for which they have trained and in which they have so much to give, The frustration for those who are not able to find work in their broad field of expertise is only going to add to disillusionment and emigration is not the answer for many nor is it a sensible solution for the country.
    Keep taking taxis!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      thanks Jean – as always you add real weight to the topic. Another issue I guess is the effect of over qualified people in roles – what does that do to a workplace?

      • socialbridge Says:

        Now that would be an interesting research topic! Lots of variables involved. Key would be whether the workplace finds a way of enabling the over-qualified to garner job satisfaction and thus a positive attitude or whether a frustrated over-qualified and misfitted employee ends up being a liability. Over-qualification can certainly be seen as a negative by prospective employers. Possibly some feel threatened so the over-qualified are very often kept out of the race and hence turn to self-employment , like driving a taxi. Fascinating questions!

      • Greg Canty Says:

        It would be really investing to dig into that “over-qualified” topic even more .. How will we do that?

  6. Will Mallard (@WillMallard) Says:

    I’m a kiwi who has been working all around Ireland over the past 5 or 6 years and am always amused to hear people in one location talking about how clannish people are in another location, particularly when they are saying the same about you! Being insular is pretty limiting, is how the Brits held out for 800 years here, despite a population of millions and plenty of resources, people simply couldn’t get out of their own way and work together. Great blog Greg, keep it coming!

  7. Trish Hyland Says:

    At the moment we have two girls in on work experience from FAS one is Nigerian and one is Hungarian. I can honestly say that I’m finding working with the girls beneficial both from a business point of view and a personal point of view. They are conscientious workers and interested in learning. Both girls intend staying in Ireland and making it their home. In fact one of them has two children who will be attending school in Ireland. As my son and his family are heading off to Australia shortly to make it their permanent home I hope they won’t experience this ‘clannish’ behavior.

  8. Caroline McCarthy Says:

    I am English and lived in France for many years and experienced discrimination first hand. I didn’t like it. It isn’t nice, it’s unjust, but it does happen. If we were all to really consider how the discriminated feel, then we would try harder to make sure this kind of thing didn’t happen. There can never be any justification for this intolerable behaviour. Calling it “clannish” was very generous of this man and says to me that he accepts that this attitude would seem unlikely to change any time soon.

  9. Vicky Says:

    Greg, Thanks for a great blog post. I completely agree with your sentiments and find it incredbily frustrating. I am a South African who has lived here for 8 years, have an Irish husband and 2 children with Cork accents. Coming from a country which is unfortunately world renowned for it’s racism, and having experienced the cultural meshing of the rainbow nation, I can honestly say that South Africa deals with racism better than Ireland does. Because they ackowledge it. They acknowledge the different cultures, give courses in understanding different cultures, try find ways to overcome it through group discussion and most importantly, have a bit of a sense of humour about it.

    As they say, you can’t fix a problem until you recognise you have one. When I first approached employment agencies when arriving here, having worked in one of the big 5 accounting firms in Johannesburg, and a world renowned bank in the City of London, I was told I would have to take a pay cut as I didn’t have ‘Cork experience’ !!! It is this mindset that is holding Ireland back from being the best it can be.

    So I suppose the question is, how do we get people to admit there is a problem in the first place?

  10. Terence MacSwiney Field Says:

    I think “Clannish” is a nice word, used in the wrong context though. We are either bigoted, sectarian or racist towards those who are not indigenous. To those who are, we can find people being “Clannish” when one is trying to do business or even be sociable. Perhaps, it’s been ingrained into our psyche because of our history, with just cause and reason – but in today’s world, it is simply not acceptable anymore.

  11. Aideen Says:

    Thanks for the great posts everybody and interesting topic Greg, I really enjoyed the insights. As Vicky stated, being able to acknowledge the issue is very important I agree.

    I love the Irish mentality, I think that we’re great and have massive potential. I have to admit that I also cringe sometimes when I hear and experience some common attitudes. I also hear some very intelligent and fearless comments about racism and other topics and there are many more open-minded people out there like yourselves. I’m proud of this.

    You said Vicky that courses are held in South Africa to aid open discussion. Paul, you mentioned self-honesty, work and risk-taking are necessary. I liked both of these suggestions. I don’t remember if I learned about open discussion, self-honesty and risk-taking in school, do we teach kids these traits? Can we teach kids these traits so that they grow up with an open mind and an ability to initiate open discussion…..then also, teach the kids to teach their parents? If it’s part of the learning system then it becomes natural and may help tackle many issues as well as racism.

    These things don’t happen over night though and shouldn’t happen over night, it takes time to change..

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Great post Aideen – well done and thanks for adding so much value to the topic. I know you work in a big organisation – without getting into specifics how is the challenge of “acceptance” dealt with or is it even an issue?

  12. Noel Cuddy Says:

    Great blog post Greg and some fantastic comments to add to the debate. To flesh it out a little can I suggest that we also limit ourselves by being ‘ageist’.
    How many people do we know in Modern Ireland who have been tossed onto the scrap heap due to the recession and are now trying to re create themselves to no avail. Companies wont employ them because they are seen as : too old, set in their ways , too expensive, too knowledgeable, ( they may show people up!)
    The only example of someone willing to embrace older employees is B&Q. Anyone who has gone to a store and asked for assistance from a ‘silver haired employee’ will be won over by the knowledge and interest they show.
    Is this another example of our narrow-mindedness like the way we are too ‘Clannish’

  13. Fergal Bell Says:

    Some very great comments on your post Greg. I’ve really enjoyed reading other people’s insights and experiences.

    I think Irish people (including Corkonians) can have an insular mentality that’s caused by lack of exposure to outside influences. If we’re only in day to day contact with people like ourselves then I suspect we only trust what we know and fall back on stereotypes when faced with something or something a bit different.

    My feeling is that your mindset about others, be it a nationality or a sexual orientation, religious belief or whatever, only changes when you have personal contact with someone.

    Anecdotally, I’ve worked with people in their early 20s who demonstrated great maturity and I’ve also worked with those in their 50s who were like children. Similarly I know people in their 50s and 60s who are like dynamos, whereas others in their 20s are like wet rags.

    I think you need to have met people to really bring it home though. Travelling abroad is fantastic for offering this, while at home making an effort to be in contact with people from different backgrounds can make a big difference.

    My tuppence worth!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      and what a great tuppence worth Fergal – from what you are saying all of the emigration we are experiencing now will be a good thing for our understanding of others and losing our “insular” mindsets

      • Fergal Bell Says:

        Yes, I think so. If we can manage immigration smoothly so that people don’t feel threatened by an influx of overseas people, it should be a fantastic benefit to the country.

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  15. Philip Nolan Says:

    I’m very late to this one but I totally agree, Greg. I have worked with people of many nationalities here and they all say that while we’re great fun in the pub, very few of us invite them to our homes. I always made a point of having new people around to the house for dinner, even if it was on a work night and we just grabbed a takeaway. One of the great joys of travelling or working abroad is to see more than the inside of a hotel room or a rented flat and instead get a feel for how people actually live.
    Offering a recent immigrant the chance to have a night in a home environment, even if it’s only to have a few beers and watch a match on TV, genuinely says: “You’re welcome here”.

  16. irlanderussie Says:

    It does seem to be in Cork only though….I compare people in Cork to people in Dublin..Not the same for obvious reasons, but also people in Dublin are more open-minded and you see a lot more foreign people in senior positions. This is not the case in Cork (speaking from experience from working in 3 different places in Cork and many more in Dublin).

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