Urgent call for overhaul of State’s hate crime legislation
Nationwide campaign calls for end to racism on public transport
Shahbaz Rana of Dublin Bus, Martin Acheanpong of Luas, Tomasz Kawako of Irish Rail, and Richard Adewuyi of Bus Éireann, with the anti-racism campaign at Hueston Train Station, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
An overhaul of the State’s hate crime legislation is urgently needed to ensure people feel comfortable reporting racial abuse to the authorities, the head of the Immigrant Council of Ireland has said.
Speaking at the launch of the national transport anti-racism campaign, Brian Killoran warned that people often choose not to report racist attacks to the Garda because of the belief that “nothing will happen”. He added that the 1989 Incitement of Hatred Act was not providing an adequate framework to respond to racism in an increasingly diverse Ireland.
“We see incidences of racism in social housing, in private rental accommodation, online, on the street, you name it. What we really need is a comprehensive national action plan against racism and appropriate legislation to back it up so that people know if they make a report, something will actually happen.”
Despite the introduction of a Garda pulse system in 2015 to record instances of racism, Mr Killoran said members of the force continued to underestimate the long-term impact of a racist attack due to a lack of training.
Lack of specific law
Last month the Irish Council for Civil Liberties released a report into hate crime which found the lack of specific law in Ireland had caused a “policy vacuum” and that the “hate” aspect of crimes is gradually filtered out as an investigation and complaint make their way through the criminal justice system.
Richard Adewuyi, a driver with Bus Éireann who attended the launch of the public transport anti-racism campaign, said many people might not realise their words and comments were racist in nature. “It’s what happens when people are upset,” said Mr Adewuyi who has worked with Bus Éireann for seven years. “They go for what hurts the most. It’s about educating people so they know that racism cannot be allowed. Our children need to know certain words are loaded and can cause serious harm.
“I think the Government has a big role to play. In the past 10-15 years there’s more people now who are of different backgrounds who call themselves Irish and call this island their home. The Government has to step in and make sure people can feel at home here.”
Martin Acheanpong, who has lived in Ireland for 22 years and is a Luas driver, underlined the flip side to the debate around racism, noting that it can exist in both directions. He recalled an incident when his white colleague pulled aside a group of black teenagers and asked to see their tickets. “I could hear one of them saying, ‘You’re picking on me because I’m black.’ I stepped in and said, ‘It’s because you don’t have a ticket, that’s the reason he was questioning you.’ Racism is not always simple.”
Mr Acheanpong said he had seen significant improvements around racism in Ireland during his more than two decades living in the country. However, he added that people often did not know where to turn if they do experience hate crime. The campaign, which will be on more than 1,600 posters over the coming fortnight, features nearly 800 selfies from commuters who support an end to racism on public transport.