The large number of people who rejected the Lisbon Treaty referendum over fears of an influx of immigrants was “extremely worrying”, an anti-racism watchdog warned tonight.
A European Commission survey of the Irish electorate after last week’s vote found concerns about immigration were a significant reason for the 53% No verdict.
The National Action Plan Against Racism (Napar) said tonight that the findings showed that more work needed to be done to confront and eliminate racism in Irish society.
Napar chairman Lucy Gaffney said: “For all of us who are active in the area of integration, anti-racism and multiculturalism, the survey findings were extremely worrying.”
Speaking at an event in Dublin to mark World Refugee Day, she added: “Clearly we all still have a major job to do in making Ireland a more welcome place for those who want to come here to work, to live and to raise families in local communities.”
Ms Gaffney praised the Government’s initiative in establishing the Office of Integration last year.
But she added: “As the Lisbon outcome reveals, addressing the fears of the local community in relation to immigration remains a major challenge.”
She urged the Government “not to take its eye off the ball” and to continue to push efforts to create better integration, such as the wearing of the hijab by schoolchildren.
She called on Government departments to fulfil their commitments under the current Action Plan Against Racism before it concludes at the end of the year.
“In these less affluent times, there is a greater danger that racist incidents will increase,” she added.
Ms Gaffney was speaking at the sixth annual World Refugee Day Awards event at Dublin City Council which was attended up to 200 people including the Ambassador of Kenya Catherine Muigai Mwangi and officials from the Office of Integration.