Faith of minority communities in gardaí lacking as reports of racist public order offences rise

Faith of minority communities in gardaí lacking as reports of racist public order offences rise

Members of minority communities who’ve been victims of racism are unlikely to report the incidents to gardaí according to the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR). In its latest annual report on racism in Ireland it published details of a drop in reports of racism between 2020 and 2021. But at the same time there’s been a surge in public order offences targeting minorities. The racism-monitoring organisation also disclosed that members of the Asian and Chinese community were the groups most likely to be victimised, a result “prompted by Covid-related abuse”. Previous reports had shown a steady increase in hate speech and racism.

Compared to previous years INAR also noted that although the far right has attempted to inflame racial tensions in Ireland, “the overall levels of violence and hostility did not also grow significantly in spite of strenuous investment” on the part of extremists.

Known perpetrators

INAR officially launched its 2021 report earlier today which is based on data gathered throughout the year via its iReport tool. The tool allows members of the public to report incidents of racism online, thereby giving them a chance to “participate in the national conversation on racism”. To ensure the data’s in line with international standards, INAR also partnered with anti-racism researcher Dr. Lucy Michael.

According to INAR, it recorded 404 reports of racism in 2021 compared to 700 in 2020. Included in this are 154 reports of a criminal nature, 90 related to discrimination, with “31 reports about other recordable racist incidents”. On top of this there were a further 113 reports of hate speech and another 16 reports which “could not be categorised”. Racists targeted members of the Asian community the most, with 15% of these cases which involved ”criminal offences” ending in the victim suffering injuries. 

Of the 154 cases of criminal offences accounted for, 40 involved assaults. Breaking this down further, INAR writes that “More than half (55%) resulted in injuries and nearly two-thirds (63%) resulted in significant psychological impacts”. The report also highlights that such cases “frequently involve people known to the targeted persons”. In one example INAR discloses, an adolescent boy dragged his six-year-old female neighbour around in a noose. The same boy attacked the family again some months later, throwing rocks at them. INAR states that the mother of the targeted family reported the incident to gardaí but they’ve “failed to investigate”. 

Overall, members of the South Asian, Chinese, and Other Asian communities represented the largest source of reports INAR recorded. In total, INAR documents that in 2021 “34 percent of assaults and threats to kill or harm were against people identified as South Asian, and 9 percent were against Chinese or Other Asian”. In his foreword INAR’s director, Shane O’Curry, writes that such targeting of Asian people is a result of COVID-related discourse and racism.

No trust for gardaí

The report also indicates a lack of trust for gardaí amongst victims of racism. Only 25% of those who recorded crimes using the iReport tool also notified gardaí. Members of the public brought even fewer cases of “racist incidents” to the attention of the authorities. INAR underscored in its report that “Just 6 percent of cases described as racist incidents were reported to Gardaí, even though they included some criminal offences and patterns which evidenced harassment”. Going on, it’s written that “none reported that they were satisfied with the response they were receiving” with this repeating “similar patterns as seen in previous years”. Added to this is what INAR director O’Curry refers to as the “stalling out” of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) enquiry into gardaí shooting and killing George Nkencho in December 2020. GSOC’s breaking of a promise to Nkencho’s family that the investigation would be completed within a year has, he argues, “serious ramifications for minorities’ faith in the authorities”. 

The report also draws attention to the context within which the above is taking place, such as documented “illegal discrimination and racial profiling by Gardaí”. In one case gardaí arrested a person without charge, who was then refused an interpreter and put in a cell but “released 10 minutes later without any charges or explanation”. 

When it comes to hate speech INAR reveals a drop from 334 reports in 2020 to 113 in 2021. The majority of hate speech originated online, with 65 reports related to incidents on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media websites. Irish newspapers were responsible for publishing nine incidents of hate speech with two more episodes involving County Councillors also engaging in similar behaviour. INAR divulges that the groups targeted by hate speech the most often “were Black-African, Black-Irish and Black-Other (32 in total), Traveller (13), South Asian (13), Chinese (8), Jewish (3) and Muslim (2)”. 

The role of the far right in engaging in hate speech also seems to have decreased. INAR points out that although it first started including a section on far-right media in its annual publication in 2019, its 2021 report notes a decline. It’s written that far fewer reports were made in this area in 2021 than in 2020, and “we believe that this is due to a shift in messaging by many far-right groups in 2021”. But this is also possibly the result of what INAR calls “reporting fatigue” on the topic. Overall, ten reports of hate speech could be attributed to Irish far-right activists or groups.

Featured image via INAR

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