Since the disbanding of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI), which carried out extensive research and acted as a bridge between communities and policy makers, there has been no coherent direction on integration policy from the government.
Philip Watt, former director of the NCCRI said it was a very worrying time for inter-culturalism.
Mr Watt, now chief executive of Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland, said the Office of Integration, into which the functions of the NCCRI were supposedly subsumed, seemed to be working without any plan.
He said the loss of expertise that the NCCRI had built up over 10 years was hindering the ability of the Government to identify and respond to incidents of racism before they escalated or became larger problems.
The NCCRI had developed a system for recording incidents related to racism in Ireland. Incidents were analysed and compiled into six-monthly reports.
Its last report found there had been 56 racist incidents reported between July and December 2008,
The most significant victims of racist incidents were black Africans, constituting 42% of all incidents reported.
The majority of incidents were targeted at adults, however, in over 29% of cases young people and children were targeted either as part of a family or individually. This was substantially higher than in previous reports.
Mr Watt said often people did not want to report racial incidents to the Gardaí, and so had come to them.
Another part of the NCCRI’s work was to train gardaí in how to deal with ethnic minorities.
Mr Watt said the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office (GRIO) did great work but did not know how it was faring since the NCCRI had closed.
Sergeant Des McInerney of the GRIO said there were 400 gardaí nationwide who were trained to deal with ethnic minorities. He refuted any claims the unit was under-resourced.
He said there were no tensions in ethnically diverse communities and said he could see no evidence of any increase in racially motivated attacks around the country.
Meanwhile the head of Residents Against Racism, Rosanna Flynn claimed ethnic liasion officers were difficult to access as they were under-resourced.
She said things on the ground were “very very bad”.
“We have a lot of members who are afraid,” she said.
She said there were no independent voices advocating on behalf of communities.