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A French Brixton

The riots call into question the republican reluctance to acknowledge ethnic difference

By Tim King   December 2005

Recently I was asked by a French newspaper to write a portrait of Montpellier—a foreigner’s view of France’s most desired town. Yet only minutes from the chic shops and open-air cafés bursting with well-dressed men and underdressed women—judged by François Truffaut to be the most beautiful in France—I found poverty such as I have rarely seen in Europe. This poverty of exclusion was quite different to the Falls or the Shankill Road in Belfast, where I worked in the 1980s. It’s not just unemployment, it’s not just that those in regular work get paid half the national average—it is more…

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