Call for hate-crime legislation to be introduced to tackle racism

Call for hate-crime legislation to be introduced to tackle racism
Brian Killoran

We need a national action plan to tackle racism, the CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland says.

Brian Killoran has also called for hate-crime legislation to be introduced, as racism occurs in every walk of Irish life.

"One of the findings of the work we've been doing down through the years around racism is that it's very egalitarian in where it shows up, and it's very egalitarian in where it happens. It happens in all kinds of neighbourhoods. It happens on the street. It happens in schools, in workplaces and on public transport as well. It's not restricted to any class, any age group, it comes up in every circumstance," said Mr Killoran.

"The nature of it then is that it's a very complicated issue to deal with. The thing that we would say as an organisation is that really we need a national-level response to it, we need a national action plan on racism, which we don't have," he added.

Mr Killoran stated that some people in Ireland believe racism is not an issue, however, he argued that, for the people who experience it, it is a really serious issue: "One of the things that have been problematic is that our responses to racism in Ireland have been very informal, they've been kind of fragmented. It's kind of been the mantra that it's not really an issue in Ireland and we would say absolutely, it's not everybody's experience, but for those who do experience it it's a really serious issue."

Mr Killoran explained that part of the problem is the lack of legislation to deal with hate crimes, as without legislation there is nowhere for people to report incidences of abuse to.

You look at other jurisdictions and we have things like racial-motivated anti-social behaviour responses, whereas in Ireland we don't have those kinds of things. Things don't fall easily into categories, and, because of that, they don't get recorded very well.

"It shows a need for us to really formalise our approaches, lay the groundwork, by having things like hate crime legislation that actually properly respond [to incidences], but having a national action plan as well that means we can look at it from every lens that it manifests in," said Mr Killoran.

He also warned that Ireland needs to prepare itself as xenophobia and racism have risen to the forefront: "That's the kind of thing we need to do (enact legislation and build a national action plan), to prepare ourselves for the fact, that when you look around us, in other countries, xenophobia and racism have risen to the forefront. They've made their way into politics and they've made their way into national discourses, and we don't want to see that happen in Ireland and we need to prepare for it and we need to lay the groundwork."

When it comes to expressions of xenophobia and racism, there is the concern that media or social media engagement with it will only serve to amplify to such views. However, Mr Killoran said it is important that issues are "identified".

"There is a fine line between amplifying things that may be phenomenas that aren't widespread necessarily, but at the same time, the importance then of identifying these issues and raising them and going: 'OK, we need to respond to it and we need to support the people who are experiencing it'.

"Racism is about disempowering somebody, racism is about dehumanising somebody, it's viewing somebody as being part of a generic group or a generic race," he said.

Mr Killoran added that migration is not a new thing in Ireland, but rather it is "part of us", and that diversity is a "brilliant thing".

He noted: "Actually, if you look, we're 20 years into a migration experience in Ireland. Our community, our schools, our workforces are massively diverse now and that's a brilliant thing. This is part of us."

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