A government minister responsible for new communities has admitted he would be "terrified" if he was a member of the Roma community living in Ireland at the moment.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that those who targeted the home of a Roma family in Waterford at the week-end were “racists” and “cowards”.
Directing comments to anyone who took part in a weekend protest in Waterford, the minster said: “I think they know themselves that their behaviour is cheap and cowardly. I think they know themselves that, if it was another individual or criminal gang who were Irish, then they probably wouldn’t do it.”
He added: “But, because it is the Roma community, they decide to tarnish everybody with the same behaviour and decided to take it upon themselves to go to somebody’s private home and to organise a demonstration outside somebody’s home, and to taunt and to jeer, and to engage in destructive, and what would appear to be violent behaviour in terms of breaking windows and such.”
Attached to the Department of Justice, he made the comments at the University of Limerick where he chaired a round-table discussion on legislating for hate crime in Ireland.
He said he hoped the meeting with the authors of a new research project conducted by the Hate and Hostility Research Group and representatives from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties would help inform proposed new hate crime laws.
The minister said: “If I was a member of the Roma Community and lived in Waterford, or if I was member of the Roma community and I lived in Ireland, I would be pretty terrified at the moment.”
A support group Waterford Against Racism protested in the city last night against the attacks on homes of Roma families.
Some were forced to flee and have been rehoused.
Mr Ó Riordáin said recent events in Waterford exposed once again the need for examination of legislation in this area.
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