Belfast Telegraph

Racism and hate crimes reach highest level on record

Racism and hate crimes are at their highest level on record, according to the latest figures from an independent reporting system.

ENAR Ireland (European Network Against Racism Ireland) said it had reports on 190 incidents in the first half of this year - the most since it began its work more than three years ago.

Twenty-two involved assault, 10 of which left people physically injured, while 13 cases involved threats to kill or cause serious harm.

The organisation, which has 65 member groups in its network, said 10 perpetrators of assaults were known to their victims including neighbours, colleagues or a landlord.

ENAR Ireland said m ost incidents occurred on the street and targeted Black-African and South Asian people, with the perpetrators mostly aged 25-34.

But the anti-racism organisation also claimed there is "hostility from public servants and unacceptably high levels of racism and inappropriate behaviour from members of An Garda Siochana".

Shane O'Curry, director of ENAR Ireland, warned of worrying levels of institutional and systemic racism which he said reflects and reinforces attitudes in which minorities are regularly marginalised and dehumanised.

"When we consider that minorities in Ireland face racist attitudes from Councillors and TDs, when going about their daily business in public, when seeking accommodation, when going out, in obtaining services, when dealing with social welfare officers or gardai, and across the media and social media, then our society is in real danger of bringing about a racist scenario from which we might not be able to roll back," he said.

Mr O'Curry warned of the risk of Ireland "sleepwalking into an Irish Trump, or Brexit scenario".

"We need to be proactive in confronting racism. It is not good enough to blame minorities for the failure of society to integrate them when such high levels of racism are allowed to fester. The responsibility must be on the state to first address the racism in its own institutions," he said.

The report compares to official figures compiled by the Central Statistics Office based on the Garda database that almost one hate crime was reported every day in the first half of the year - a near doubling of the incidents previously logged.

Hate crime is not a specific offence under Irish law but it can be taken into account in a trial.

The ENAR Ireland report also revealed most incidents involved verbal abuse - 79 cases in total.

Forty-three of these in cidents involved a perpetrator who the victim knew and 10 perpetrators were staff members in public institutions.

In 29% of cases the victim was identified as black, 16% were classed as white European and 12% involved Irish Travellers.

There were 38 reports of discrimination in work or services, 12 cases involved graffiti and 13 incidents involved criminal damage.

Fifteen reports concerned racist behaviour by a staff member in a public service organisation and five reports alleged ra cial profiling by gardai of ethnic minorities.

Enar Ireland said a tweet by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, when he used the N-word in a reference to a Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained film about black slavery in America, was one of the most high-profile incidents on which it received reports.

The organisation said the tweet was particularly controversial because of his reputation for anti-racism work and his use of a pejorative term.

Enar Ireland also included first-hand accounts from those who reported racist attacks.

In one assault children were verbally abused before being sprayed with bleach by other children in the neighbourhood, while in another one boy abused a 10-year-old and threatened to shoot him.

In a report of criminal damage, someone revealed the front door of their neighbour's house was being kicked in, with a gang of up to 15 youths throwing rocks, bottles and cans while they verbally abused the family inside.

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