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Anti-hate laws key to tackling racism, Holocaust Day told

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President Michael D Higgins and Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond and Tomi Reichental at last year’s memorial event. Photo: Gareth Chaney

President Michael D Higgins and Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond and Tomi Reichental at last year’s memorial event. Photo: Gareth Chaney

President Michael D Higgins and Holocaust survivors Suzi Diamond and Tomi Reichental at last year’s memorial event. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned that Ireland and the world must use education and anti-hate laws as strategic tools to fight extremism, racism and anti-semitism.

The warning came as the Taoiseach delivered the keynote address at Ireland's ­Holocaust Memorial Day.

Organisers stressed that the commemoration was now more important than ever given the rise in far right groups across the world, soaring levels of misinformation and hate speech as well as an alarming surge in anti-semitism. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was staged virtually.

The ceremony annually remembers the six million Jewish people and millions of other victims who were murdered due to their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or religious beliefs during World War II.

Holocaust survivors and Irish residents Tomi Reichental and Suzi Diamond offered personal recollections of the Holocaust.

Tool

"Education is an important tool in deepening our understanding of the Holocaust and fighting against racism and anti-semitism," Mr Martin said.

"We are (also) currently working on a number of measures across all areas of Government to address hatred and intolerance.

"The purpose of this work is to ensure we can identify how Ireland's law in this area can be improved, based on a clear understanding of the experiences of those impacted, while remaining in harmony with the very important right to free expression.

"In June 2020, the Government also appointed an anti-racism committee with a mandate to develop a new National Action Plan against Racism."

He said a core element of this work will be to promote the inclusion of minority groups in Irish society.

"This is a fight that will need to be sustained with energy and application into the future as new technologies and ever-evolving platforms provide new opportunities for old prejudice and hate." He slated anti-semitism and racism as "an ugly scourge".

Mr Reichental survived the notorious Bergen-Belsen camp and later settled in Ireland. "What we saw was hell on earth," he warned.

Jonathan Philips (66) had his father's entire family fall victim to the Holocaust.

"My father was very hesitant to talk about his experience while we were growing up. After his death we found about a hundred-odd pages of his account handwritten which I regret not knowing more about before."


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