An undercurrent of low-level racist violence in Ireland must be tackled, a European human rights organisation has urged.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) says the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 is seldom used and is “ineffectual” in combating online hate speech.
The ECRI, established by the Council of Europe, is also concerned that Ireland has not renewed its National Action Plan against Racism since 2008.
“This appears to have left an important vacuum contributing to a normalisation of racism,” it states in its latest report on Ireland.
It points out that hate speech involving verbal abuse in public places is quite common.
"There is an undercurrent of low-level violence which is not adequately recorded or addressed," it warns.
It is also concerned that common offences of a racist or homo-/transphobic nature are not defined in Irish criminal law.
Only seven incidents falling under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act have been recorded by police in the last five years.
Just two cases went on to prosecution and the outcomes are still pending.
Figures from the Courts Service show that since 2000 there have been only five convictions under the act and only two resulted in imprisonment.
The work of the ECRI, an independent human rights monitoring body, takes place in five-year cycles, covering up to 10 countries every year.
It describes hate speech as particularly worrying, not just because it is often the first step towards violence, but also because of how it affects those targeted and impacts on social cohesion.
The report criticises local authorities for consistently failing to provide adequate and culturally appropriate accommodation for Travellers.
The ECRI found that “prejudice and opposition” from local residents to providing halting sites had translated into a lack of political will to resolve Traveller accommodation needs.
“As there is no provision for sanctions, there is no accountability for under-delivery,” the report states.
As well as urging local authorities to “step up efforts” to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers, it “strongly recommends” that a solution is found to the failure by local authorities to use funding allocated for Traveller accommodation.
It suggests imposing sanctions on local authorities for failing to spend the allotted funding or placing the responsibility for traveller accommodation under the authority of a central housing commission.
It also recommends the development of a national housing strategy to supply affordable housing and combat racial discrimination.
The report welcomes improvements in direct provision accommodation but wants applications to be processed more efficiently to reduce the time spent there.