Friday 9 December 2016

Justice Minister warns of tough anti-hate measures after spate of racial attacks

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald signalled Ireland will review key anti-hate crime regulations amid mounting concern over a spate of racially motivated attacks nationwide.

Ms Fitzgerald, backed by Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, warned Ireland must promote equality and tolerance while working hard to ensure minority communities feel safe in Ireland and have full trust in gardai.

The Government is now considering a full review of the 28-year-old Incitement to Hatred Act.

Controversial

Both were speaking at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, where 97 new recruits had their passing-out ceremony.

While refusing to comment on the controversial new political party, Identity Ireland - which said it wants immigration controls - Ms Fitzgerald warned Ireland cannot afford to go down the route of other EU countries where racial tensions have been heightened.

Her comments came after a number of high-profile attacks in the past week, which gardai fear may have been racially motivated.

An African woman and her children fled their west Dublin home after a series of hate attacks, while in Laois, an Indian priest was beaten and stabbed.

READ MORE: 'Racist thugs won't keep my kids away from school here' says woman subjected to vile abuse

"We do have the Incitement to Hatred Act which is the appropriate legislation there. There is a report out suggesting the legislation may have gaps in it. I am certainly open to reviewing our legislation as it does go back to 1987," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"I totally regret any race crime, such as we have seen. We have been fortunate in this country and we have to continue to work hard at integration. That is what is important. Respecting diversity and not getting into the situation that other countries have found themselves in, where there have been dreadful escalations in hate crimes.

READ MORE: 'My children said they never want to go back to the scary movie house' - mum forced to flee after racist graffiti

"Overall, in this country, in terms of integration compared to other countries, we have been very lucky," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"Every race crime or hate crime has to be condemned unequivocally. It must also be dealt with appropriately."

Ms O'Sullivan said gardai take all crimes against the person, including hate crimes, very seriously.

"We are concerned about crime in any form but particularly crimes against the person," she said. "Ireland is a much more multicultural society and it is very important that we, as a police service, reflect that diversity," she said.

"We have outreach to those (minority) communities. We have ethnic liaison officers in place right across the country. Our Garda Racial and Intercultural and Diversity Office now do an awful lot of work.

"We want to make sure we build up trust and confidence."

She said it was hugely important to see people joining An Garda Siochana and the Garda Reserve from various different cultural backgrounds. The Reserve now boasts people from almost 30 ethnic groups.

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