Rights watchdog calls for ‘greater urgency and prioritisation’ of elimination of racism in Ireland
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has called for “greater urgency and prioritisation” of Ireland’s commitments to eliminating racism and racial discrimination in Ireland.
The rights watchdog has marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by publishing its submission to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) as well as an Oireachtas submission on proposed new hate crime laws.
While welcoming progressive developments since 2019, including the establishment of the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) and legislative proposals to address incitement to hatred and hate crime, the submission to the UN warns:
“In light of the State’s growing pattern of delays in meeting its target deadlines, the Commission calls for greater urgency and prioritisation of the State’s commitments to eliminating racism and racial discrimination in Ireland.”
The submission stresses the need for close alignment between the forthcoming Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill and the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and advocates that the proposed legislation is progressed and implemented in line with the State’s human rights obligations, including under CERD.
The Commission has published detailed recommendations to Oireachtas members on the general scheme of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill, stressing the importance of clarity and consistency when defining core terms relating to hate crime, such as hatred, harm, and unlawful discrimination, as well as hostility and incitement.
On the proposed online safety laws, the Commission recommends the definition of harmful online content in the proposed legislation be clear and sufficiently precise. This should include online hate speech and content inciting violence or hatred against protected groups. The Commission also sets out that terms relating to hate speech, such as racism, should be clearly defined in this law.
Sinéad Gibney, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: “Racist hate crime and hate speech affect not only affect those targeted directly, but also, if not challenged send a wider poisonous message that some individuals or groups do not belong and can therefore be mistreated with impunity. We need to tackle this head-on with all of the tools at our disposal.
“For our laws to be effective, we need to be clear and consistent about what we mean by the specific terms, and we must listen to the voices of those groups and persons affected.”