Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Shepherd takes up racism fight in Ireland

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 12:24 AM

The United Nations (UN) rapporteur on the elimination of racial discrimination in Ireland, Jamaican Professor Verene Shepherd, says the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric in that country should push the state to introduce hate crime legislation without delay.

Shepherd slammed the Irish government for failing to reform its legal framework on hate crimes and called for a “clear time-bound commitment” to make the necessary changes in law.

A rapporteur is someone appointed by an organisation to report on the proceedings of its meetings, in this case, the UN.

Shepherd warned that “racial profiling” had become a serious problem within the police service in Ireland.

Ireland’s efforts to end racism are under review this week, with a delegation led by Minister of State David Stanton appearing before the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination in Geneva. Ireland last appeared before the committee in 2011.

The rapporteur’s points were based on recommendations submitted by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and numerous civil society groups who presented their findings ahead of Monday’s meeting.

Shepherd questioned the impact and effectiveness of the state’s Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy and also warned of discrimination towards black Irish people and people of African descent in the Irish workplace.

On direct provision, she said there was an urgent need for improved reception conditions and called on the government to stop relying on emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.

Noting that a national action plan against racism had not been renewed since 2008, Shepherd questioned whether the state planned to introduce a new plan and if a time frame existed.

In his address to the committee, Stanton said an anti-racism committee would convene early in 2020 to produce its initial report to the government within three months, but did not comment on a national action plan.

“Legislation on hate crime is a priority and proposals for changes in law will be published in the Spring of 2020,” said the minister.

Stanton acknowledged the committee would be critical of the state’s direct provision system, but said he was not aware of any “workable alternative for service provision”.