Ireland ‘out of step’ with hate crime policy

Group warns State is in danger of breaching EU laws on hate crime

Hugs doled out to members of the public at the Members of the Action Against Racism demonstration in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph:  Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Hugs doled out to members of the public at the Members of the Action Against Racism demonstration in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Ireland is in danger of breaking EU laws due to the non-existence of hate crime laws in the country, campaigners have said.

Members of the Action Against Racism group ran up and down Grafton Street on Saturday dressed as giant hearts and doled out hugs to highlight the absence of legislative protections for people subjected to attacks due to their race, religion, sexuality or disability.

Some three thousand members of the public signed a petition calling for the Government to activate such legislation, which activists say will bring Ireland into line with other developed countries.

“Ireland is out of step with the majority of countries in the OSCE and the EU, we’re almost unique in the fact that we have no provision for hate crime at all in this country,” said Shane O’Curry, director of European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland which runs the campaign.

“That puts us in contravention of the EU framework decision on racism and xenophobia, so actually we’re in danger of breaching European law,” he added.

Around 15 different nationalities were represented at Saturday’s event, including Polish national and ENAR Ireland development officer Aga Wiesyk.

“This is a demonstration of love not hate, it’s a campaign calling for hate crime legislation in Ireland because at the moment we have no legislation protecting people from different minorities,” said Ms Wiesyk, who also decried the EU’s new policy of returning Syrian refugees to Turkey.

“The deal completely ignores the human factor in it, it’s like sweeping dirt under the carpet and not addressing the issue,” she added.

There were 157 instances of racist hate crimes recorded on the iReport.ie website during 2015 compared to 75 recorded by gardaí in the first nine months of the year, which the group says belies a perennial under-reporting of such incidents.

ENAR Ireland had hoped to present the petition signatures to the Minister for Justice, but decided to engage in an extended public campaign instead until a new government is formed.

As next weekend’s 1916 centenary commemorations draw near, Mr O’Curry also expressed the view that diverse actors who were involved in the rebellion should not be “airbrushed” out of the celebrations.

“The people in the GPO were very diverse- we know there were Latvian and Lithuanian migrants involved in the 1916 uprising, there were travellers involved and there were women and they’ve all been airbrushed out of history,” he said.