What do you call an Irishman offering home repairs door-to-door? A con artist.
That is, at least, according to Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz who this week said that “If anybody knocks on your door that has an Irish accent, automatically ask them to leave” claiming they were scammers who “know where to go, who to target, as soon as they get cash in their hands, they’re gone.”
Members of the Irish community both here in Australia and around the world called the comments racist and the most offensive thing done to the Irish accent since Brad Pitt starred in Snatch.
So why single out the Irish over any other nationality when it comes to door-to-door con artists?
Kairouz was attempting to drawn attention to the Irish Traveller community who have, over the past few years, made their way to Australia as backpackers and have been found running door-to-door home repair scams and white van rip-offs.
The Travellers, often called Pavees (or Knackers, Pikies or Tinkers if you want to get really offensive) are a an Irish ethnic minority, often compared to Romani Gypsies. They, like Romani, are traditionally itinerant and are often associated with running short cons, greyhound breeding and scrap metal dealing.
When Travellers show up in films and TV, they’re more often than not cast as con artists. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver in The Riches, Brad Pitt in Snatch and Bill Paxton in Travellers all depict Travellers as untrustworthy swindlers while reality shows like Big Fat Gypsy Weddings offer a slightly more accurate, if not a little sensationalist view of the community.
So are all Irish people Travellers? Of course not.
Are all Travellers con artists? No.
Are there Irish travellers in Australian scamming people? Absolutely!
Should we give money to any person who knocks on our doors offering cheap home repairs at rock bottom prices? No.
Drawing attention to the nationality and accents of these swindlers doesn’t help us and it doesn’t protect potential victims. It just makes us more distrustful of an already isolated ethnic group.
Huh, I though this joke would have a funnier punchline.