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Make racists feel uncomfortable in Ireland, including politicians and Rogue Police Officers, Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination say in dialogue with Ireland

Committee on the Elimination
  of Racial Discrimination

03 December 2019

Ireland should use all legislative and non-legislative means to create a world in which ethnic categorizing and vestiges of colonialism would be relegated to the past where they belonged, said Verene Shepherd, Expert of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as the Committee brought to an end its review of the report of Ireland.  She urged Ireland to make racists feel uncomfortable in the country, including politicians and rogue police officers, and to criminalize hate speech and prosecute the perpetrators.

The Committee examined the combined fifth to ninth periodic report of Ireland on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 2 and 3 December.  During the review, Committee Experts regretted Ireland’s lack of action on climate change.  It was a violation of its international obligations and, given the negative consequences for the vulnerable populations nationally and globally, could be considered a form of “climate racism”, an Expert said.  Other issues raised included racist harassment and discrimination against Travellers, Roma, people of African descent and migrants; racial profiling by the Gardaí, the Irish police force; and a surge in hate speech and hate crimes.

Ms. Shepherd, the Committee Rapporteur for Ireland, welcomed the gains in the situation of ethnic minorities, especially the 2017 recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group.  She congratulated Ireland on its impressive economic growth of over 8 per cent in 2018, which had made it one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.

The Committee, however, remained very concerned about the persistently poor health, education and employment outcomes of Travellers and Roma, and the racial profiling by the Gardaí.  Travellers represented 0.7 per cent of the population but accounted for 10 per cent of the male and 15 per cent of the female prisoners, while 21 per cent of the detained children were Travellers.  In 2018, complaints of racial discrimination in Ireland were the second highest in the European Union.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission addressed the Committee and said that diversity in Ireland had increased.  The country was now multi-ethnic and multinational but it continued to struggle to be tolerant of difference.  There was a demonstrable history of chronic racism towards Travellers, the indigenous minority ethnic community, and people of African descent and Roma faced multiple levels of discrimination.  Ireland was not immune to the worrying trend of populism, unilateralism, and racist and discriminatory rhetoric in mainstream political and social discourse.

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation of Ireland stressed that the recognition of Travellers ethnicity in 2017 had reframed the conversation on the situation of this community and their rights.  Combined with the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, it had had a direct and positive impact in many areas, including accommodation, employment and education. 

An Garda Síochána, the Irish police force, had launched a three-year diversity and inclusion strategy in October 2019, with a strong commitment to non-discriminatory and human rights-based policing.  Discriminatory racial profiling was prohibited and never acceptable, since it undermined fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, a delegate underlined. 

Ireland recognized the seriousness of racist beliefs and behaviours.  A new anti-racism committee would be set up before the end of 2019 to inform the Government about the nature and prevalence of racial discrimination in the country.  It would advise on the most effective approaches to fighting racial discrimination against Travellers, Roma, people of African descent, migrants and other groups.

Hate crime and hate speech bills would be tabled in spring 2020 and opened for public consultation, said the Irish delegation.  The new laws would be very clear, very specific and applicable to daily life.  A public consultation on the 1998 Prohibition to Incitement of Hatred Act had been opened to ascertain which other groups needed protection and to gather proposals that would help it to calibrate the restrictions on speech with the right to freedom of expression.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Shepherd welcomed Ireland’s commitment to the Committee and the Convention and its efforts to construct a racism-free society.

Oonagh Buckley, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland, in her concluding remarks, recognized that Ireland was a little bit late in recognizing its very mixed cultural and ethnic heritage and said that the country had made great strides in the past eight years.

Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the quality of the dialogue and said that Ireland would be cited as a country where liberty and freedom were real. 

The delegation of Ireland was led by David Stanton, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland.  It included representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Department of Rural and Community Development, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, An Garda Síochána (Ireland’s police force) and the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Ireland at the end of the session on 13 December.  Those and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage

The Committee’s public meetings are webcast live at http://webtv.un.org/, while the meeting summaries in English and French can be accessed at the United Nations Office at Geneva News and Media page.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m.  today, 3 December, to review the combined tenth to twelfth periodic report of Uzbekistan (CERD/C/UZB/10-12).

Report

The Committee is examining the combined fifth to ninth periodic report of Ireland (CERD/C/IRL/5-9).

Presentation of the Report of Ireland

DAVID STANTON, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland, stressed that diversity and inclusion were important for Ireland.  Over the past two decades and more, Ireland had welcomed migrants from across the world.  Seventeen per cent of Ireland’s population had been born outside the country and approximately 120,000 had received Irish citizenship since 2011.  Landmark developments in the recognition of the rights of ethnic minorities included the citizenship ceremonies - introduced in 2011 – which constituted a public recognition by the State of the commitment made to Ireland by new citizens, Mr. Stanton said. 

On 1 March 2017, the Traveller community had been recognized as an ethnic minority, a symbolic step forward in the State’s acknowledgement of the uniqueness of Traveller identity and culture.  While this recognition would not remove overnight all of the obstacles that had prevented them from experiencing full equality within Irish society, it had nevertheless created a strong platform of respectful dialogue and pathway towards equality for Travellers.

Ireland had enacted the legislation to ensure that all children, whatever their religion or none, had equal access to primary education.  The Education (Admissions to Schools) Act 2018 removed the exiting provision in the Equal Status Act 2000, which had permitted primary schools to use religion as a selection criterion in school admissions.  It ensured that non-denominational families would be treated the same as others and that children of minority faith could still access a school of his or her faith.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 had introduced a new equality and human rights positive duty of public bodies, which must set out in their statements of strategy how they intended to fulfil this duty.  The law provided structural underpinning for action by public bodies on equality, human rights and combatting discrimination.  The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission had been set up in 2014 as an independent public body accountable directly to the Parliament.  It held status A, conformed to the Paris Principles and had been given a range of power to challenge discrimination.

Ireland, Mr. Stanton continued, had adopted a strategic policy on migrants, Travellers and Roma, while the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex plus inclusion strategy had been launched the previous week. 

The Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 provided the framework for action and committed public bodies to take action on migrants’ employment, education, access to public services, political participation and immigration.  The Public Appointments Service Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy required all public bodies to mainstream integration issues into their work and included specific actions to tackle racism, from the review of hate speech legislation to ensuring migrant representation on Joint Policing Committees.  The mid-term review of the migrant integration strategy had identified a need to add actions focused on combatting racism.  An anti-racism committee was being established, with the mandate to review current evidence and practice and make recommendations to the Government on how to best strengthen its approach to tackling racism.

The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 was a whole of government strategy aimed at improving the lives of Traveller and Roma communities in Ireland, in partnership with Traveller and Roma organizations.  A two-year project had been established to increase the attendance, participation and school completion in specific Traveller and Roma communities.

Major reforms in An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s police force, included the strengthening of its capacity to respond to the needs of minorities, while the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2019-2021 had been launched, with a focus on protecting the community, developing robust data systems, and upskilling the police to understand the needs of diverse communities and to respond to crimes perpetrated against them.  The strategy included a definition of hate crime, in line with international best practice, while the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit monitored the reporting and recording of all hate crimes on PULSE, the Garda recording system.

In 2015, Ireland had set up the refugee protection programme which had committed to bringing 4,500 Syrian refugees to Ireland and worked on relocating Syrian asylum seekers from camps in Greece.  Inspired by the community sponsorship models in Canada and United Kingdom, Ireland had launched in 15 November 2019 the Refugee Community Sponsorship Ireland.  The Direct Provision System was a whole of government mechanism for providing support to asylum seekers who sought international protection in Ireland.  Since its establishment in 1999, over 65,000 people had been accommodated.

Recognizing the criticism of the Direct Provision System and the calls for its abolition, Mr. Stanton stressed that a credible alternative must be capable of providing the wrap-around services that applicants needed on arrival, to a strange country where they might not know the language, customs or law.  The Government was focused systematically on addressing the flaws in the Direct Provision System to ensure the best possible services to applicants in the best possible way.  

Statement by the Irish National Human Rights Institution

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said that since the last review before the Committee in 2011, the diversity in Ireland had increased and the country now had both a multi-ethnic and multinational society.  At the same time, new human rights challenges had emerged, including an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.  Also, Ireland was not immune to the worrying trend of populism, unilateralism and racist and discriminatory rhetoric in mainstream political and social discourse.

Ireland continued to struggle to be tolerant of difference.  There was a demonstrable history of chronic racism towards Travellers, the indigenous minority ethnic community.  People of African descent and Roma faced multiple levels of discrimination.  In recent times, there had been a troubling growth in anti-immigrant and anti-refugee discourse by office holders and those seeking office, including in the national Parliament.

Stronger and more diverse leadership was needed to eliminate institutional racism, to maintain and strengthen Ireland’s commitment to equality and non-discrimination, and to ensure Ireland did not succumb to the regression in international human rights norms.  The State must make a clear progression from historical inaction and delay to concrete steps and commitments, including direct incorporation of the Convention in the domestic law.     

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Rapporteur for Ireland, congratulated Ireland on its impressive economic growth of over eight per cent in 2018.  Since it was one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, the Committee expected that there would be no budgetary constraints to the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the improvement of the quality of life for the most vulnerable.  What had the impact been of the new economic strategy on all population groups?

Turning to data and statistics, the Rapporteur noted a significant gap in the data available on minority ethnic groups.  She asked how the 2016 census takers decided about the ethnic breakdown of the population, whether disaggregation of data according to ethnicity was done according to human rights standards, and how Ireland would develop and implement ethnic identifiers across data collection systems in line with human rights standards.  Between 2011 and 2016, the number of Black Irish or Black African had fallen by 1.4 per cent, while White and Asian Irish grew – what explained this decrease?

The responsibility for addressing racial discrimination was heavily invested in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, an independent body which had raised alarm about the shortcomings in the legislative and other frameworks for eliminating racial discrimination.  The non-renewal of the 2008 national action plan against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and the closure of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism were setbacks.

The anti-discrimination legislation prohibited discrimination in the provision of goods and services, accommodation, education and employment based on nine specific grounds, including race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins.  However, it lacked the definition of racial discrimination in accordance with article 1 of the Convention and did not explicitly prohibit multiple or intersectional discrimination.

The Committee had learned that the State-owned Electricity Supply Board heavily relied on coal mined from the Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira in north-eastern Colombia.  The operation in this coal mine had been linked to serious human rights violations, including forceful displacement of thousands of indigenous Wayúu, Afro Colombian and campesino populations, and contamination of farmland and drinking water.  The Rapporteur insisted on the obligation of Ireland to reduce the risk of gross human rights violations, including by lending its support to the initiation of an independent inquiry into the operation of the mine and restitution to victims of human rights violations.

The Committee was concerned about the ongoing racial profiling by the Gardaí, especially of young men of African origin, and the under-reporting of complaints of racial profiling, which was attributed to the perception that nothing would change and the fear of retaliation.  Seventy per cent of the Travellers felt discriminated against by the Gardaí and 77 per cent of Roma had reported being stopped by the police for identity checks.  As a result, Travellers and non-Irish groups were over-represented in the prison system: while Travellers made up 0.7 per cent of the population, they accounted for 10 per cent of the male and 15 per cent of the female prisoners, while Traveller children made up 21 per cent of the population of Ireland’s only child detention facility.

An independent human rights audit of An Garda Síochána had revealed that officers and members expressed negative views about Travelers and Nigerians.  What was being done to prohibit and monitor ethnic profiling by the police force?

What were the findings of the statutory Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and how were the victims of human rights violations compensated?  The Committee noted with concern complaints of the use of race and racial profiling in the child adoption process.

Hate crime was an issue in Ireland.  The level of hate crime was high, especially against people of sub-Saharan African background and in particular against women wearing headscarves in public, said Ms. Shepherd.  There were reports of the use of discriminatory language against the Traveller community in the 2018 Irish presidential election campaign.  The Committee had also received reports of the increase in far-right rhetoric, even by government officials and politicians, and the increase in racist attacks by right-wing activists. 

And yet, hate crime was not prohibited and aside from incitement to hatred, racist behaviour was not explicitly criminalized.  The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1998 had proven ineffective in combatting hate speech, particularly online hate speech.  Would Ireland commit to a clear and time-bound action plan for the review and modernization of hate crime law and practice?  Because of the escalation in the incidence of far-right rhetoric and the harm to vulnerable groups of the absence of legislation, Ireland should to enact legislation prohibiting racist organizations.

Ms. Shepherd welcomed the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group in 2017 and asked whether this recognition had a legislative backing and what rights came with this designation.  She welcomed other gains, in particular strengthened protection of Travellers as an ethnic minority in the European Union, but raised concern about their persistent poor health and education outcomes.  With two years to go in the implementation of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, what was its effectiveness in the areas of cultural identity, education, employment and the Traveller economy, children and youth, health, gender equality, anti-discrimination and equality, accommodation and access to public services.  Had any special measures had been adopted to increase the political participation of Travellers and Roma?

Racist harassment, violence and discrimination appeared to be an everyday reality for people of African descent, despite the efforts by the State.  Complaints of racial discrimination in Ireland were the second highest in the European Union in 2018 and more than half the people of African descent experienced hate-motivated harassment.  Structural racism must be addressed by raising awareness of the history of slavery and colonialism among the population.  The Rapporteur applauded the initiative to use education to combat racism and xenophobia, such as the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland and its activities to combat anti-Semitism.  History education could be a useful tool to combat racial discrimination by teaching the history of immigrant populations, their contributions to building Ireland, and the roots of stereotypes and hatred based on origin, skin colour and other grounds.

Commending the impressive Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020, the Rapporteur asked whether all key actions were on track, for example to make the civil service fully representative of Irish society by ensuring that 1 per cent of the workforce was from ethnic minorities.  Ireland should, inter alia, establish a mechanism for the early detection of vulnerability of asylum seekers, reduce the backlog caused by the change in legislation in 2016 and conduct a review of barriers to accessing the labour market for refugees.

Questions by Committee Experts

GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, recalled that the Committee had adopted concluding observations on Ireland in 2011 and commended the State party on submitting the follow-up review on time.

Another Expert said that the lack of action on climate change, in violation of international obligations, could be considered a form of “climate racism”.  Ireland’s emissions were the third highest in the European Union and disproportionate to the size of its population.  What would be done to reduce the emissions and prevent the negative impact of climate change on vulnerable people in Ireland and globally?

Ireland had a number of policies and strategies in place and the Committee wanted to know how they all worked together.  In the domestic legal order, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination seemed to be a “poor relative” among other human rights conventions, as it was not incorporated.  Ireland had a framework in place to prohibit discrimination in the public sphere and by public entities, which, however, did not seem to fully apply to the private sector and private entities.

An Expert remarked that the migration-governing framework did not adequately protect minority migrants, especially women migrants from minority backgrounds.  A problem area was that often, their migratory status was linked to their husband, which made them vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse.  Anti-migrant sentiments were sometimes expressed in the mainstream media, both print and online – how were these being tackled?

The delegation was asked about redress for historical discrimination, especially for certain groups of people of African descent, who did not seem to be named in history accounts.  Ireland had instituted an Africa Day, which was commemorated annually – what was the content of those events and did it address Ireland’s role in the transatlantic slave trade?  Had measures been taken to prohibit racism in sports?  Were there any positive measures to aid social integration of groups that had been discriminated against?

The delegation was asked about its extraterritorial human rights obligations and whether there was a mechanism in place to monitor the behaviour of Irish companies abroad.  Minority groups were more vulnerable to changes in work - how was Ireland preparing to mitigate the negative impact of artificial intelligence and automation on their employment?

An Expert expressed alarm at the employment and education situation of Travellers and Roma.  Reportedly, 80 per cent of Travellers and 84 per cent of Roma were unemployed, and only 13 per cent of Traveller girls were educated to secondary school level compared to 69 per cent in the general population.  Why had Ireland not adopted targeted, substantive and well-resourced measures to address those significant gaps and challenges?  What was being done to address the homelessness of Travellers and Roma, which had reached crisis levels? 

The Committee was very concerned about the 2002 housing law which criminalized trespass and thus the nomadic traditions of Travellers, and which was being used by municipalities to evict them.  Another concern was the local opposition to the setting up of accommodation centres for migrants – what could be done to stop far-right movements from using this issue to aggravate the situation that could escalate further discrimination against minority groups?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained the process of the incorporation of international treaties in domestic law and said that Ireland gave effect to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination through specific laws, for example the Equal Status Act 2000 and the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011.

Access to high-quality data disaggregated by ethnicity was essential to understanding how the measures taken were meeting the specific needs of those groups.  The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 and the Migrant Integration Strategy 2017-2020 contained specific measures and activities for data collection that would advance the equality data agenda.  The 2016 Programme of Government had committed to equality budgeting in order to address equality gaps.  Ireland was currently conducting equality data assessment of all Government projects to identify gaps and challenges and to propose measures for improvement.

The Central Statistics Office trained its census takers on racial awareness and on each question on the census.  This had been done for the 2016 census and would be, without doubt, done for the 2021 census.  The delegation stressed that in the census, nationality and ethnicity were self-descriptors.  This, and the context in which the 2016 census had taken place, which was a very serious recession, could explain why the number of Black Irish went down by one per cent.

The issue of racist beliefs and behaviours was a very serious issue and that was why the Government had set up an anti-racism committee, to advise the Government on the most effective approaches to fight racial discrimination in Ireland.  The first meeting would take place before the end of the year.  The committee would work to understand the nature and prevalence of racial discrimination against Travellers, Roma, people of African descent, migrants and other groups.  The initial report would be provided to the Government by February 2020 and the substantive one by June 2020.  The recommendations by the committee would assist Ireland in building the infrastructure to fight racism and racial discrimination

Responding to questions concerning the infiltration of far-right groups, the delegation said that Ireland had a very vibrant civil society, which included all shades and thoughts.  The Irish Government did not control speech and thoughts and the Government was meeting with civil society organizations to discuss the situation of migrants.

In the spring of 2020, Ireland would have new proposals for the development of criminal law to address hate speech and hate crimes; the bills would then go through the regular parliamentary procedure.  This was a difficult area to legislate, the delegation said, also because such behaviours meant different things to different people. 

A judge could consider racist motives as an aggravation, but did not have an obligation to do so.  At the moment, it was not mandatory for a judge to consider racism as an aggravation.  That was why the new legislation would be very clear, very specific and applicable to daily life.  The Government had opened a public consultation on the prohibition to incitement of hatred act 1998 to ascertain which groups needed protection from incitement to hatred and to calibrate the restrictions on speech with the right to freedom of expression.  The delegate stressed that hate speech was not freedom of expression, but opposite to it.

Criminal law was needed as a cornerstone of protection from hate speech and hate crimes and it must be accompanied with training, awareness raising and other relevant measures, such as disciplinary procedures or codes of conduct.  Ireland would soon publish research into approaches to legislating against hate crime and its effectiveness, to inform its own hate crime proposals.  All bills for progressing criminal legislation on hate speech and hate crime, to be tabled in spring 2020, would be opened for public consultation.

The Law Reform Commission had recommended in 2016 the update of the offence of harassment to ensure it dealt appropriately with online harassment and revenge porn.  This proposal would be tabled in spring 2020.

In October 2019, An Garda Síochána, the Irish police force, had launched a three-year diversity and inclusion strategy, which contained a strong commitment to human rights-based policing.  It contained five strategic principles and complemented the mission of the police which was to keep people safe and promote positive obligations under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014.  Among others, it would support enhanced reporting, recording, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.  An online reporting tool and an alert mechanism for hate crimes would be set up.  Guidelines for the investigation of hate crimes were being drafted and would be incorporated in staff training. 

An Garda Síochána prohibited discriminatory racial profiling, which was never acceptable as it undermined fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals.  The Gardaí was committed to respecting the dignity and equality of all members of the society and to non-discriminatory policing, especially in relation to vulnerable and minority groups.  To strengthen dialogue and build confidence in the police, the Gardaí had rolled out Regional Dialogue Days and regional advisory mechanisms with Roma and Traveller communities.  The Gardaí diversity officers, formerly known as ethnic liaison officers, were in place and had their mandates extended. 

In 2018, Ireland had opted in to the European Union Reception Conditions Directive and had accepted the obligation to deliver on a series of standards and rights for asylum applicants.  At the moment, there were 6,000 people in accommodation centres and 60 per cent lived in new and improved centres.  Ireland was working to reduce the number of people in emergency accommodation centres, particularly children, who now represented 19 per cent of the residents. 

A revised and strengthened asylum request assessment process would enter into force early next year.  Ireland was committed to meeting its obligations to international protection applicants and stressed the importance of listening to the local communities as well.  That was why community consultation groups had been established.

On the effectiveness of anti-discrimination and equality legislation, the delegation said that the Workplace Relations Commission, set up in 2015, was very quick in handling complaints of discrimination in employment and in access to goods and services.  Complaints could be made online and free of charge and could be pursued without a lawyer.  It took six months to a year to complete the process and the agency represented a very efficient mechanism of access to justice.

Ireland, like any other European Union Member State, was not a party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which had been ratified by only 55 States.  There were no plans to sign or ratify this Convention, but this decision would be kept under review.  

The impact of business activities on the enjoyment of human rights was increasingly recognized around the globe and in Ireland, said the delegation.  Ireland was among the 22 States which had adopted a national action plan to give effect to the 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  This plan had been adopted after the consultation with all stakeholders, including civil society organizations and business enterprises.  An implementation group had been set up to take the lead on the areas of action, including the State’s duty to protect, the obligation of businesses to respect, and access to remedy for victims of human rights violations by Irish companies abroad.

In response to questions raised about the coal mined from the Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira in north-eastern Colombia, on which the State-owned Electricity Supply Board relied heavily, the delegation said that this was an issue of deep concern to many non-governmental organizations in Ireland.  Ireland had opened its embassy in Colombia in 2018 and its Ambassador had already visited the region in September 2019, in demonstration of the importance the Government accorded to human rights issues. 

The Ambassador had met with the mine managers, local communities, local authorities and civil society organizations.  The region was economically dependent on the mine, which was the largest employer and provided 13,000 jobs.  In her meeting with mine owners, the Ambassador had highlighted changes in the public opinion in relation to the extraction of fossil fuels, and urged more efforts to strengthen communication between the mine and the communities and to develop preparedness for the closure of the mine in 2033.

The recognition of Travellers’ ethnicity in 2017 was a major decision, which had reframed the conversation on the situation and rights of this community and had had a direct impact on accommodation, employment and education.  In recent years, the funding for Travellers’ accommodation had been increased and an independent expert group had been established to review the legislation and to propose measures to accelerate the provision of accommodation.  The group had presented the report in July 2019, with 22 such measures.

To expand access of Travellers and Roma to job seeker benefits and public employment services, the Government had established regular communication meetings with the two communities and had developed a series of videos and booklets in easy-to-read English to explain the benefits and how to access them.  A series of programmes were in place to support long-term job seekers, while the public employment programme had reduced the eligibility for Traveller and Roma youth from 21 to 18 years, thus increasing access.

Under the 2020 budget, €2.5 million had been allocated for pre-employment support for specific groups, including Traveller and Roma communities.  The economic recovery over the past several years had reduced the number of job seekers, allowing the Government to focus on vulnerable groups, namely persons with disabilities, Roma and Travellers, and African nationals.

The Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme was the primary social inclusion programme with €190 million that aimed to tackle poverty and social exclusion at the local level.  Actions were implemented in partnership with individuals, civil society organizations and the authorities, and were managed by local development committees in 51 communities.

Many activities in the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 worked together to improve educational outcomes of the two groups.  Ireland was working to phase out segregated education and include Traveller and Roma children in mainstream education.  It was investing heavily in tackling educational exclusion and disadvantage and was providing additional support to the education of Roma and Traveller children, including strengthened literacy and numeracy learning opportunities and delivering on the equality of opportunity programmes. 

As for the treatment of mixed-race citizens in mother and baby homes, Ireland had established in February 2015 an independent Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation to investigate human rights violations committed during the 1922 to 1998 period.  The setting up of the Commission was a recognition that there were significant issues of public concern in relation to those homes.

Concluding Remarks

VERENE SHEPHERD, Committee Rapporteur for Ireland, in her concluding remarks, welcomed Ireland’s commitment to the Committee and the Convention and its efforts to construct a racism-free society.  She encouraged Ireland to continue to abide by its international human rights obligations and to use all legislative and non-legislative means to create a world in which ethnic categorizing and vestiges of colonialism would be relegated to the past, where they belonged.  Ireland should do more to make mixed-race Irish children feel included and understood.  Finally, the Rapporteur urged Ireland to make racists feel uncomfortable in the country, including rogue politicians and rogue police officers, and to criminalize hate speech and prosecute the perpetrators.

OONAGH BUCKLEY, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland, in her concluding remarks, reiterated Ireland’s firm commitment to the work of the Committee and said that Ireland was, perhaps, a little bit late in recognizing its very mixed cultural and ethnic heritage.  Still, Ireland had made great strides in the past eight years and would strive to do even better for the next eight years. 

NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the quality of the dialogue and said that Ireland would be cited as a country where liberty and freedom were real. 

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