“We came out, a car drove up, called her a ‘n***er lover’ and drove away. She was obviously deeply upset because she couldn’t be seen as someone who was in a genuine relationship.” Richard Bashir Otukoya: “There was no, ‘Oh look at this guy, he’s got a job, he’s doing his Ph D.’ There was none of that.
It was just, ‘No, you’re black.’ That’s it.” Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times As someone who has suffered “subtle racism and explicit racism” all his life, the incident did not unnerve Otukoya (“That’s fine because then you know their intentions”).
The experiences they describe echo an old racist slight that has been thrown at men of colour who immigrate to predominately white nations since time immemorial: “They steal our jobs, they steal our women.” “It speaks of an Irish sense of patriarchy, that Irish men somehow own Irish women,” says Rebecca King-O’Riain, a senior lecturer in Maynooth University’s department of sociology.
King-O’Riain, a mixed-race Japanese-American ex-pat, has conducted significant research into interracial marriage in Ireland.
“People don’t see interracial relationships as ‘normal’, even if people wouldn’t directly go up to your face and attack you,” says Chess Law, a 19-year-old student from Ballymena whose parents are originally from Shanghai and Hong Kong.
“A lot of white people in particular don’t see it as normal.
“I’ve had a drunk guy in a restaurant come up to me and my partner at one point and say, ‘Congratulations, I really admire what you’re doing.’” Getting a clear picture of the number of interracial relationships in this country is difficult.
Census data tells us little about race, but it does show that inter-cultural marriages have gradually increased.
I have spent several weeks speaking to couples and people with various experiences from across the spectrum of interracial dating.
Enar’s stats are consistent with what I hear during interviews conducted for this story – that black people, particularly black men, who enter interracial relationships with white Irish women suffer the sharpest abuse.
But his experiences have soured him on the idea of ever entering an interracial relationship again.
“I wouldn’t dare put another girl through that again,” he says.
What of Ireland, though, a country with a relatively short history of pluralism and diversity.