UN CERD says Ireland needs to act now on anti-Traveller & Roma racism

The UN has called for Ireland to facilitate increased Traveller and Roma participation in public life following a hearing in Geneva on what Ireland has done to combat racism and discrimination since 2008.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged the State to focus on ethnic data collection to highlight areas where outcomes are poorer for ethnic minorities. And it also says Ireland should incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination into the domestic legal order.

CERD Concluding Observations – full report

The Committee said it had serious concerns about high unemployment rates of Travellers, low levels of school outcomes and very poor health. 

Action on Traveller Health Plan Needed

The Committee called for State to adopt a targeted health plan for Travellers with a focus on Traveller mental health. 

Department of Health officials reporting to CERD

“We are disappointed that since the introduction of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy in 2017 progress has been too slow,” said Martin Collins. “CERD is also calling for action and implementation. Meanwhile Travellers continue to face a 12-year life expectancy gap and a mental health crisis.”


Effective Traveller Accommodation Plans

Traveller accommodation was high on the agenda with a recommendation to repeal criminal trespass legislation and a moratorium on Traveller evictions.  There was also a recommendation that Traveller accommodation budgets be returned to pre-austerity levels and for the State to ensure that the allocated budget is fully and effectively spent.

And there was also a call for the State to publish its 2019 review of the Traveller Education Strategy and develop a new strategy with concrete action plans.

Diversity An Garda Síochána

CERD’s concluding observations, published on Friday 13 December, acknowledge racial profiling by An Garda Síochána and states how this is linked to the over representation of Travellers and Roma in prisons. 

Superintendent Kevin Daly speaking on diveristy in An Garda Síochána

CERD also states that for Travellers and Roma to have an effective remedy in the face of discrimination on licenced premises – these cases need to be taken out of the District Courts.  CERD recommended the cases be  transferred to the Workplace Relations Commission, which deals with all other cases under the Equal Status Act.

Independent Anti Racism Plan Needed

“We welcome the fact that the State has said it will establish an Anti-Racism Committee to look at what needs to be done to address racism in this country. However, we also welcome calls by CERD that there be a new Action Plan Against Racism and for an independent body to oversee this plan,” said Martin Collins.

NGOs reporting at CERD

“CERD has acknowledged that Ireland has shortcomings in equality legislation, weak hate crime and hate speech legislation and serious issues of institutional racism.  Wide-ranging issues impacting on racism can only be addressed via a whole of government approach administered via an independent National Action Plan Against Racism.”

Roma in Ireland

Racial profiling of Roma by An Garda Síochána is a concern, CERD stated. CERD also highlighted the increasing incidence of racist hate speech against Roma. Another concern for CERD is the serious discrimination and inequality Roma are facing in the private rental sector which make Roma disproportionately at risk of being homeless. CERD also calls for improved access to social housing for Roma.

Ireland Examination at Geneva

Ireland’s record under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was examined at a hearing in the UN in Geneva on the 2nd and 3rd December 2019. This is the third time that Ireland has gone before the Committee, a group of international and independent experts tasked with examining states’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Ireland is required to go back to CERD in five year’s time to report on progress.

A delegation of NGO’s, including Pavee Point, along with the Irish Human Rights Commission also travelled to Geneva to report on actions under CERD.

Some of the Irish NGOs at CERD