Ireland was urged to abide by its international commitments and take all steps to make racists feel uncomfortable at the close of hearings by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva (CERD).
CERD Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Ireland Verene Shepherd made the call following two days of hearings by on actions on the Convention taken by the Irish Government since 2011.
The matter of racism experienced by Travellers featured extensively at the committee and the Governments’ replies outlined an awareness of the need to establish the critical infrastructure to combat racism in Ireland and hasten legislation with regard to hate crime and hate speech.
Racist political discourse was particularly noted by the Committee and the Government agreed to undertake dialogue with the Electoral Commission and the Standards in Public Office Commission, in relation to elements of the CERD convention.
Diversity within An Garda Síochána
The State party accepted that in addition to any new anti-racism legislation planned it should include specific training for the Gardai and the judiciary. Travellers representatives were cautious that any such training should be mandatory, developed in consultation with the community and monitored.
The Irish delegation included national Traveller representative groups the Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre , the National Traveller Women’s Forum and the Donegal Traveller Development Project. Questions were asked of the State of the particular experiences of Traveller women given the intersection of racism and sexism and there was a call for any measures being created to take account of that bias.
Roma Committee Member
Rita Izsak Committee member and Roma woman raised matters for Travellers and Roma in Education and questioned the progression of the Government National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy encouraging it to focus on timelines and structures for implementing actions. The disproportionate experience of Travellers under the Liquor Licensing Act where cases are brought before the District Court and not the Workplace Relations Commission was called for consideration.
Diverse Communities in Ireland
While Ireland’s progress in particular areas under the Convention was noted, considerable attention was given to the intersection of Ireland’s now diverse communities and the ineffectiveness of anti-discrimination legislation and on current Government strategies, there was an acknowledgement by the State in replies that “we know we need to get better”
The Committee raised concerns about the Traveller accommodation underspends by Local Authorities in the context of a homeless crisis. Nomadism and the impact of the Criminal Trespass Legislation was also raised and there a call for recommendations of the Expert Report on Traveller Accommodation to be progressed. In replies it was confirmed a programme board will be established chaired by the Minister, Damien English to drive the implementation of the 32 recommendations on a phased project basis
The new commitments to Equality budgeting was welcomed by Traveller representatives groups and with reference to gender proofing, but concerns remain on related data collection and to what extent this will be universally applied across Government and made public given the obstacles put forward by Departments regarding compliance with GDPR.
The more comprehensive replies on matters raised but which did not feature at the hearings such as for Travellers and Roma under the Habitual Residency Clause, child poverty and related welfare payments and progress on the Health Action Plan for Travellers, should feature in the final Government report to the Committee.
Full replies on all matters raised by the Committee will be developed before the end of this week and the CERD will publish their findings and recommendations on Friday December 13th, 2019.