Dáil Éireann - Volume 531 - 01 March, 2001

Written Answers. - Racial Discrimination

34. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the Government's position on combating racism and prejudice having regard to the Taoiseach's speech at the launch of the Dunbrody emigrant ship at New Ross on 11 February 2001. [4641/01]

38. Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Government's position on combating racism and prejudice having regard to the Taoiseach's speech at the launch of the Dunbrody emigrant ship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4627/01]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 38 together.

In his speech at the launch of the Dunbrody emigrant ship, the Taoiseach said “As a country with a sometimes bitter experience of emigration, it seems very important that we remember the hardships and prejudices we faced in the past while we promote equality and tolerance and reject racism and prejudice wherever we find it. I believe it would be a great betrayal of our emigrant legacy to confuse a fair and realistic approach to migration policies on the one hand [1341] with anything less than full openness to cultural diversity on the other”.

The Government's commitment to combating racism and promoting a tolerant, inclusive society is clear from its record. We now have a comprehensive anti-discrimination legal code in place. Racial discrimination in employment, training, accommodation, education and the supply of goods and services, including public services, is outlawed by the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the Equal Status Act, 2000.

The Human Rights Commission which is being established will be a powerful new independent body charged with the task of keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of our laws in relation to the protection of human rights in their widest sense.

The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, makes it an offence to incite hatred against any group of persons on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the Traveller community. The Act is under review at present to see if it can be made more effective.

Social inclusion strategies, including those under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness in the area of social inclusion-anti-poverty-education have encompassed marginalised social groups including Travellers and other minorities. Action will be taken, where appropriate, to specifically incorporate an anti-racism dimension.

Ireland ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, CERD, in December 2000. The EU Race Directive was adopted in June 2000 and steps will be taken to make any necessary amendments to domestic legislation to bring it into force here.

An equality infrastructure has been put in place to underpin our anti-discrimination legislation, the Equality Authority and the Office of Director of Equality Investigations. They provide free advice and redress to those who have suffered racial discrimination.

In 1998, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, NCCRI, was established. The NCCRI has been instrumental in drawing together key Government bodies and NGO groups to address racism.

The NCCRI, as part of its overall aim of developing an integrated approach against racism, introduced an anti-racism protocol for political parties and a declaration of intent for candidates for elections.

The gardaí, under the auspices of the Garda community relations section, have recently established a Garda intercultural unit. In addition a working group has been reviewing all aspects of Garda training in the area of human rights in order to develop best practices in the light of ongoing changes in the policing environment.

An anti-racism in the workplace week, organised jointly by IBEC, the Construction Industry Federation, ICTU and the Equality Authority took place from 6 to 10 November, 2000.

[1342] In 1998, the Government allocated a sum of £900,000 to fund a Traveller communications programme over a three year period 1999 to 2001. The objective of the programme, entitled Citizen Traveller, is to address the underlying causes of mistrust between Travellers and the settled community and to promote a greater understanding between both communities.

In addition to this awareness campaign, the Government agreed to proposals for a framework for a comprehensive public awareness campaign, with a core budget of £1.5 million per annum over a three year period, to address racism and promote a more inclusive, intercultural society. This programme commences this year. I have appointed a high level steering group representative of ethnic minorities, social partners and relevant Departments and agencies to implement the programme. The first meeting of the high level steering group was planned to be held on 28 February 2001 but owing to adverse weather conditions it had to be postponed. Arrangements are being made for an alternative date.