chapter  6
30 Pages

What Fresh Gh ost Is This?

A group of African mothers and their Irish-citizen children are gathered on the pavement outside the Dáil. Children aged between three and six years old wear green shirts, wave Irish flags, and brandish Irish passports while enjoying the day outside. “Resi dents agains t Racism ” is on the move. 1 The mothers are asking to be allowed to stay with their children in Ireland and not be deported. The children – all of whom are Irish-born citizens – have been raised in asylum and refugee camps and very little assimilation has taken place. As the children sing “All we are say-ing, is give us a chance,” Sinn Fein, the Green Party, the Labour Party, and the Independent Party take turns calling out their solidarity through bullhorns. They encourage the protest; they attempt to persuade the women that they understand that the situation in which they find themselves is interconnected with an Irish Atlantic past that continues to be present. What they come close to saying but can’t quite bring themselves to articu-

late is that the Irish became Irish through death and departure. They know where this is heading. They understand the precarity of movement. The

cultural memory of Irish Atlanticization is palpable but largely unvoiced. The politicians blink and shiver with cultural memories passed down as stories through generations. When they look up again they see Irish famine women and their children pleading with the authorities to help them keep their families intact. To stay in their current predicament would mean starvation, to leave their children to take a job in the workhouse, while leaving their children to fend for themselves, would also lead to certain death. Their husbands have already suffered that fate. When the politicians refocus, the African mothers and their children who were protesting on the pavement are disappeared, moved, redirected. The scene has changed. The Irish Citizenship Referendum of 2004, which

effectively ruled to deport African mothers and their children, ensured that this was so.2 By the nex t year, nineteenth-century Am erican ex-slave s had started to appear on the Irish stage. Aunt Hester ’ s ghost began to rattl e some old and new chains, and a highly theatrical Kara Walker-style female slave had arrived in Dublin. Just as the political performative call from the protesting mothers did not create an effective change in their status as illegals, the theatrical performance call from their historical analogues slipped below the dramaturgical radar screen. Any spectator looking from the political performative to theatrical performance and back again would ask only one question: what fresh ghost is this?