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Thursday 28 August 2014

Alarming rise in 'hate crimes' over race or religion

Ralph Riegel

Published 07/05/2014 | 02:30

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There has been an increase in reported hate crimes here
There has been an increase in reported hate crimes here

IRELAND has witnessed an alarming increase in 'hate crimes' involving physical and verbal abuse over a person's race or religion.

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It is now feared that such racist incidents are occurring at a rate three to four times greater than indicated by official garda statistics.

The Irish Integration Centre (IIC) said new studies have shown people are 22 times more likely to report racist incidents in England and Wales than in Ireland.

"Under-reporting of such incidents is a worrying problem in Ireland ... it is pretty obvious that racism isn't 22 times greater in England or Wales than here," IIC public affairs director Helena Clark said.

The number of logged 'hate crimes' is now increasing in Ireland by between 12pc-15pc each year with a dramatic spike since 2010/2011.

Such 'hate crimes' have been put under the spotlight following a spate of high-profile incidents including Justice Minister Alan Shatter being the victim of anti-Semitic abuse; two Chinese women being assaulted in Dublin; an African migrant being subjected to a vile racist tirade on a bus; and foreign food delivery workers in Dublin being targeted for ambush-style attacks.

Leading civil rights groups, including the IIC, the Irish Immigrant Council (IC) and Immigrant Support Group (NASC) admitted there is now mounting concern over the rise in such 'hate crimes'.

A new reporting service has logged almost four times more race-related incidents than official garda statistics for the same period. The hotline dealt with 60 specific attacks nationwide over a three-month period.

However, garda figures indicate that just 19 incidents took place over the same period.

Gardai said the discrepancies probably arose from incidents being recorded in other categories, such as assaults, where the motive could not be initially established.

Gardai have now appointed 322 personnel to act as ethnic liaison officers, covering every district in the State.

Uniquely in Europe, Ireland does not have legislation that allows crimes which involve racist, religious or homophobic motivations to be treated as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

NASC chief executive, Fiona Finn, said feedback from agencies working with minority groups was now vital for the State.

"We need to promote an open dialogue, examining the effectiveness or otherwise of our current legislative and policy framework to effectively deal with all forms of hate crime, racism and discrimination," she said.

Irish Independent

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