The Irish Network Against Racism (INAR) has divulged an increase in reports of racism the public made to it in 2020 compared to 2019. Although the group noted a decrease in “incidences of direct discrimination and racism in institutions” as a result of the COVID lockdown, it said the largest growth was in relation to online racism.
Much of this racism originated on social media and also from far-right media sources. And a “far right fake news industry” has contributed to the problem.
INAR launched the report today which is an overview of accounts received via its iReport tool. The tool allows members of the public to report incidences of racism they’ve been subjected to personally or witnessed. According to INAR it uses the definition of racism as defined by the UN, which outlines racism as:
Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, based on race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, which has the purpose of modifying or impairing the recognition, the enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life constitutes racial discrimination.
Out of the latest figures, 159 relate to criminal offences, 99 discrimination, with “other recordable racist incidents” making up 143 reports. There were also 334 reports linked to hate speech, which INAR pointed out is “almost double that of 2019”.
Harassment and assault
There were 51 reports of “racist assaults” made to INAR, which it remarked “is the highest ever rate of assaults” reported to it via iReport. Included in this is an incident where a group of people assaulted an Asian man, stole his wallet, and left him with a fracture to his face. In a similar incident another Asian man was “grabbed and verbally abused by a group of people who then attempted to abduct him”.
Racists have also targeted the Traveller community. In one case a Traveller family suffered “a campaign of harassment” from neighbours and eventually moved into different accommodation as a result. The report states that the family moved twice “with their harassers notifying their new neighbours each time”. These harassers allegedly glued the locks as well as inflicting other damage on one house while at the second house “neighbours gathered outside at night to loudly threaten the family”.
Trust in gardaí to deal with racist incidents also remains low. It’s revealed in the report that many incidents go unreported due to uncertainty about the law surrounding racism. Another barrier victims and witnesses face is that they “feel they will not be taken seriously”.
“Far right fake news”
In his foreword to the report, INAR director Shane O’Curry argues that racism and discrimination have “thrived” during the current pandemic. Racists targeted members of the Chinese community as well as Asians and minorities, blaming them for the pandemic, he said. Of the reports INAR received in reference to hate speech, 31 were “related directly to the pandemic”.
But O’Curry also highlighted the increasing role of the far right in Ireland in the upsurge in racism. The INAR director wrote that 594 reports were related to “Media and social media incidents” compared to 174 the previous year.
He also insisted that there’s an “increasingly sophisticated far-right ecosphere” which is contributing to the problem. And he made mention of the “Irish far right fake news industry”.
As evidence for this he drew attention to the false stories spread about a house fire in Balbriggan in Dublin in August last year in which online far-right actors attempted to blame Black youths for the incident. Another example he cited was the gardaí shooting and killing of George Nkencho in December.
In the aftermath of the shooting The Beacon revealed how the far right organised online to intentionally stir up racial tensions and attempted to spread misinformation that Nkencho was a convicted criminal.
Featured image via INAR