Call for campaign to combat anti-Roma racism
A NEW report has called for a campaign to combat racism against the estimated 3,000 members of the Roma community living here.
The nomadic and semi-nomadic group, whose ancestors came from North India, have been described as the biggest and most discriminated minority in Europe.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs cited a recent EU-wide public opinion survey which found a quarter of Europeans would feel uncomfortable to have a Roma as their neighbour.
It said there was a need for a focused awareness-raising campaign to confront racism against the Roma people -- without stigmatising the group.
Fianna Fail Senator Terry Leyden there was clearly work to do to improve the levels of integration and understanding of the Roma community among Irish society.
"Our report identifies some practical measures which we feel will help improve the standing of Roma people in Ireland and contribute to them playing a more active role in Irish life," he said.
The report referred to the comments made about the Roma community last year by Judge Aingeal Ni Chonduin in the Children's Court. She accused Roma parents of "raising their children to steal" and being responsible for "our shops being robbed blind" The judge was commenting after a 16-year-old mother of one admitted theft of shoes and handling stolen clothes. Mr Leyden distanced himself from the judge's remarks. "Whilst I agree that stealing does not go with our 'ways', I disagree that it's inherent in ethnic minority communities. Crime is a universal problem and it's not only related to migrants," he said.
The report called for Roma people to be mentioned in EU and Irish anti-discrimination and social inclusion programmes, which already contain references to at-risk groups such as Travellers and disabled people. It said reliable data should be collected on the number of Roma people living here. It also called for a survey of Roma people to establish if they had experienced racial attacks.