Implementation of plan to fight bias is urged by Irish groups


ATTEMPTING to put the issue of alleged anti-Irish discrimination firmly on the election agenda, Irish community groups have written to the main political parties urging them to implement equal opportunity programmes "without delay".

The five-point plan to combat alleged discrimination, particularly within the criminal justice system, was put together by groups including the Federation of Irish Societies, the National Association of Probation Officers and the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas. The groups wrote to the main parties saying Irish people were unusually likely to be stopped by the police and raised the point that Irish people were disproportionately represented among alleged miscarriages of justice.

The plan recommends all equal opportunity programmes should "monitor the experience of Irish people" in Britain, a separate Irish category should be included in the next Census and that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) should be referred to an independent review.

The Home Office should sponsor academic research into anti-Irish discrimination, the groups said, and central government resources should also be made available to Irish community groups to providing "support and advice" for those arrested under the PTA.

A spokesman for the Federation of Irish Societies, Mr Gearoid O Meachair, said: "It is essential that if the Irish community is to have confidence in the major parties that discriminatory programmes are put into place without delay.

However, the letter seems to have gone astray. The Conservatives said the Home Secretary's office could not confirm that it had received the letter, while Labour's shadow home secretary, Mr Jack Straw, was unavailable for comment and the Liberal Democrat office also refused to confirm if it had seen the letter.