“I was 15 when my mom told me she tried to put me to adoption after I was born. She said, she could not imagine a life in Ireland raising me. One of the reasons she kept me was because the adoption centre warned her that black or mixed-race children never get adopted. She could not bring herself to do it. You would expect the natural reaction from a 15-year-old to be greatly hurt but by then, I had experienced so much hate. Instead, I felt empathy for her. Ireland was a very different place back then. My mom went to Nigeria as a voluntary nurse. That’s where she met my dad and she got pregnant. She came home to Catholic Ireland, being single and pregnant out of wedlock with a mixed-race child. She came from a small village in Wexford. She was afraid to go home; she had no job and no place to stay. We lived at her sister’s, while she applied for a council house. Soon after we got a place, a hose was placed through our window, someone tried to flood our house. People were very clear and vocal that we were not welcome. She has been regularly called ‘a N lover’. They would call me the ’N’ word even as a child. When I did try to go out to play with the kids, ‘my friends’ would call me names. I didn’t understand why nobody would ever hold my hand. I was five when my mother found me in the bath frantically trying to wash off the brown colour from my skin. My childhood was very lonely, to say the least. I didn’t feel belonging anywhere. My personality could not develop. Only when I started to play basketball, that was the first time I felt I belonged somewhere. I was good at something. I was wanted somewhere. I was accepted. Basketball helped me to develop my identity. Basketball became my identity. I was Emer, the basketball player. Despite all this, I never lost hope. I always wanted a family and I wanted to make my mom proud, to make her feel like everything we went through was worth it. That’s what made me never give up. My children are my new motivation – to make Ireland a better place for them. We came a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
My name is Emer O’Neill, I am Irish.
This post was highlighted by the National Transport Authority, TFI – Transport for Ireland and the Immigrant Council of Ireland to promote the discussion about diversity and inclusivity in Ireland and to bring awareness to their opposition of racism and discrimination of any kind on public transport.