UN tells Irish government it must ‘intensify its efforts’ to combat hate speech

Minister of State David Stanton speaking in Geneva in front of CERD on 2 December

The UN has called on Ireland to “intensify its efforts” in combatting hate speech. It comes as Irish representatives appeared in front of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva last week. In a statement published on 13 December, CERD argued that Ireland must also introduce a National Action Plan Against Racism. 

It went on to reveal that it is concerned about “gaps in the existing anti-racial discrimination policy”.

The report comes as a Rally for Peace on Earth is being held today to counter a far-right “Free Speech Rally”.

Hate speech

In its concluding remarks CERD said the issue of hate speech in Ireland was of concern. It noted that there has been an “increasing incidence of racist hate speech directed against Travellers, Roma, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants”. It pointed to the internet and social media as the main methods of spreading hate speech.

CERD also noted the “frequent incidents of racist hate speech made by politicians, especially during election campaigns”. And it declared that Ireland’s Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act “has been ineffective to combat racist hate speech”. 

As a result, it calls on the Irish government to:

Strengthen its legislation on racist hate speech with a view to effectively combating racist hate speech in all forms of expression and means of communication

And, what’s more, it says Ireland must work “in close cooperation” with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and social media companies “to tackle the prevalence of racist hate speech” online.

Dealing with racism

But CERD also suggested that the government also needs to do more to tackle hate crime and racism. It wrote that it was “concerned about the gaps in the existing anti-racial discrimination policy and institutional framework”. This, along with other shortcomings, including the lack of a functioning Anti-Racism committee, resulted in the committee stating that it

recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to ensure that no protection gaps exist in policy and institutional framework for any group of people experiencing racial discrimination

This includes the creation and implementation of a “National Action Plan Against Racism in line with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”. It also recommends that the government guarantees “the effective functioning of the Anti-Racism Committee with a comprehensive mandate and a sufficient budget”.

Also highlighted was the role of racial profiling by the gardaí. CERD said it is

concerned about the reportedly high incidence of racial profiling by the Gardaí (the police) targeted at people of African descent, Travellers and Roma and the disproportionately high representation of these ethnic minority groups in the prison system. 

Given this, it advises that racial profiling is made illegal and that “an independent complaints mechanism to handle racial profiling” is introduced.

Direct provision

The UN committee also took aim at Ireland’s system of direct provision. It declared that it “is concerned at the continuous failure of the State party to provide adequate accommodation for asylum seekers”. Of particular issue is that fact that those living in direct provision often stay in the system for years which has a “significant impact on mental health and family life of asylum seekers”. 

Furthermore, it highlighted the fact of

The operation of direct provision centres by private actors on a for-profit basis without proper regulation or accountability mechanisms

It also drew attention to the “lack of transparency” around the deaths of people living in direct provision.

For these reasons it wrote that it

urges the State party to develop an alternative reception model and take concrete steps to phase out the Direct Provision system.

In the interim CERD demands that the government reduce the amount of time asylum applicants spend in direct provision and that it should improve the living conditions therein. And it argued that “clear standards” for direct provision centres must be set which includes the inspection and regulation of the centres.

The government has one year to report to CERD on its implementation of the recommendations made by the committee.

Featured image via Twitter – Department of Justice & Equality