Minster of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today branded the actions of those who targeted the home of a Roma family in Waterford at the weekend as "cheap and cowardly".
The Minister, attached to the Department of Justice, 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 that the meeting with the authors of a new research project conducted by the Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG) and representatives from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) would help inform proposed new hate crime laws in Ireland.
Addressing those who took part in 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.
"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."
"If I was a member of the Roma community and lived in Waterford, or lived in Ireland, I'd be pretty terrified at the moment.
"I have worked with them, I have worked with Pavee Point, I used to teach members of the Roma community, and I think to tarnish the entire community with the actions of a few is really pathetic."
Drivers are advised to avoid The Manor in Waterford due to a protest in the area! pic.twitter.com/cBPolOhUeO— Beat 102 103 (@beat102103) October 25, 2014
He said that some who engaged in the protest were simplistic in their methods, and were "determined to bring down the good name of their city".
He called on those with concerns about crime to "go talk to the Gardaí, don't start organising mobs, it's not the way things are done in a civilised Republic".
In defending the Roma community, the Minister said: "I looked at the (protestors) postings that were done online and I think it's extremely cowardly and ultimately racist.
"I think the Roma community are a particularly vulnerable group because they are weak, they don't have access to mainstream media, they don't have political power.
"They can be tarnished and ridiculed very, very easily.
"I think if there was another group or individual engaged in anti-social behaviour or criminal activity, I don't think you'd have a mob outside their house as readily.
"I have massive concerns as to what's happened."
He also rounded on some of his colleagues, saying: "And also, the lack of leadership from the political system in Waterford has been depressing as well."