‘Misinformation’ spread about Roma through Facebook

About 100 people gather in Co Waterford to demonstrate against anti-Roma protests

About 100 people gathered in the centre of Waterford city this evening to protest against the anti-Roma demonstrations in the city over the weekend.

A number of families had to be evacuated from their homes on Sunday and Monday evenings after some 100 people gathered outside houses in the Manor Street, William Street and McDermott Road areas of Waterford City chanting “Roma out, out, out”. Windows were smashed and a door kicked in.

A man in his 40s was arrested for public order offences before being released without charge. A file is being prepared for the director of public prosecutions.

Seamus O’Brien, a member of Waterford Against Racism, told the gathering that the city must “say ‘no’ to racism, and ‘yes’ to ending poverty”.

“Yes there is crime in Waterford and yes there is crime in the Roma community,” he said.

“But there’s also crime in my family and yours. But we can’t allow ourselves to descend to mob rule and racist commentary on social media to solve this.”

A Roma support group has said there are clear links between misinformation being spread on Facebook and intimidation against members of the community in Co Waterford.

The Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre said multiple Facebook pages over recent months had openly incited hatred against member of the community.

It said the content had spread misinformation and racism towards Roma and included inflammatory, dehumanising and violent language.

“There is a clear link between online hate speech and hate crime and there is an urgent need to address the use of the internet to perpetuate anti-Roma hate speech and to organise violence,” said Siobhan Curran, Roma project coordinator for Pavee Point.

“Anti-Roma racism does not occur in a vacuum and we now need strong public and political leaders to be visible, vocal and openly condemn anti-Roma actions in Waterford.”

Given these latest incidents, and last year’s cases involving the wrongful placement of Roma children into State care, Ms Curran said a national strategy was required to support Roma inclusion as a matter of urgency.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent