Government pledge on fighting racism being met, says Taoiseach

Novice Green Party TD Joe O’Brien highlights criticism of State failings on hate crime

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that 120,000 people had been made Irish citizens since Fine Gael came to office. File photograph: Getty

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that 120,000 people had been made Irish citizens since Fine Gael came to office. File photograph: Getty

 

The Government will give consideration to a national plan against racism, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

But Mr Varadkar insisted the State is already fulfilling its international commitments through programmes and strategies already in place. He was speaking in the Dáil as the Government was being examined at the United Nations in Geneva on its record in relation to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Minister of State for Justice David Stanton is leading the Government delegation at the hearing.

The UN has criticised the Government for failing to reform its legal framework on hate crime and called for a target date for implementation of changes.

Newly elected Green Party TD Joe O’Brien, who raised the issue, said the national action plan on racism had not been renewed since 2008 and the UN queried whether it would introduce a new plan with a time frame for implementation.

On his first day as a TD the Fingal deputy represented his party on leaders’ questions and highlighted the “nastiness that reared its head” before and during the byelection campaign”.

Calling for a new national plan to combat racism he asked the Taoiseach about the “need for candidates and elected representatives to up their game in how they speak about people who look different or are from a minority”.

The Fingal TD said gardaí lacked training on how to deal with racially motivated crime and incitement to hatred legislation was out of date. He also pointed out that the UN had also queried the effectiveness of the State’s Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy and warned of discrimination towards black Irish people and people of African descent in the Irish workplace. And it called for improvements in the State’s system of direct provision for asylum seekers.

The Taoiseach replied that notwithstanding “events of recent weeks”, 120,000 people had been made Irish citizens since Fine Gael came to office and they had accepted thousands of refugees from around the world when other countries refused to do so.

They had implemented the McMahon report regulations which ensured that the quality of direct provision accommodation had improved. Mr Varadkar said work on reforming incitement to hatred legislation was under way and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan had begun a consultation process.

He added that they had published and implemented the national migrant integration strategy as well as a national Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy. “In addition, we have the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which was established by the previous Government of Fine Gael and Labour.”