Advisory group told of 99 alleged racist incidents


AN ATTACK by a gang of teenagers in Cork on a 20-year-old Burundian man, who needed nine stitches to his face after the assault, was one of 99 alleged incidents of racism reported last year to the State's advisory group on the problem.

The number of reported assaults, cases of harassment and other types of abuse had risen by roughly 50 per cent on the 2006 figure of 65, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) revealed.

Racism on the internet remained a key concern, said the committee, with 15 per cent of all cases from July to December 2007 featuring this category.

Fifty per cent of the incidents in that period occurred in the greater Dublin area and "the most significant victims of racist incidents were black Africans males".

Elsewhere, the main complaints from people from central and eastern Europe related to workplace issues.

The committee also outlined some incidents regarding misinformation and the public circulation of offensive material. The committee said it was the target of a number of e-mails with racist content, while the Migrant Rights Centre and other NGOs have also complained of receiving such e-mails.

Philip Watt, director of the NCCRI, said new and old forms of racism continue to be reported in Ireland and there are indications that such incidents are increasing.

However, figures show that in 2005 the number of complaints submitted to the organisation stood at 119 - 20 more than the 2007 total.

"We shouldn't be complacent about racism in Ireland and we need to redouble our efforts to tackle it," said Mr Watt.

He was speaking at the launch of Intercultural and Anti-Racism Week 2008, the public awareness drive that takes place from April 7th-14th. Today also marks the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

At the launch, Lucy Gaffney, chairwoman of the National Action Plan Against Racism, criticised the Department of Education and Science for falling behind integration measures in schools, saying it continues to "drag its feet" and is slower to respond to the challenges.

"A malaise of adolescent violence has been brewing across the country in recent times. This could be a portent for things to come. And whether this is racially or anti-socially motivated, we can only hope to neutralise it through education and opportunity," said Ms Gaffney.

She acknowledged the work done by the department to date, but said it has not established a full "cohesive national intercultural education strategy".

A spokesman for the department said it has set up a special integration unit to co-ordinate its policies in this area.

He also said that there are now over 1,900 language support teacher posts allocated to primary and post-primary schools, compared with 262 in 2001/2002.