Ireland Needs Sanctions for Breaches of Anti-Racism Commitments

Human Rights and Equality Commission Publishes Detailed Recommendations for National Action Plan Against Racism

 Monitoring and enforcement, including the use of sanctions are among the measures needed to combat racism in Ireland according to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) who today publish their recommendations for Ireland’s National Action Plan Against Racism.

The report entitled, “Developing a National Action Plan Against Racism”, sets out what needs to be done in areas such as policing, education, media, politics, employment and healthcare, making over 130 recommendations for State action. It highlights the need for anti-racism to be promoted across the political and public institutions of the State through systematic training and more diverse recruitment in our police, courts, healthcare and teaching professions. The Commission explicitly calls for a participatory annual public forum on the advancement of anti-racism to be established, and for the plan to have its own specific budget line and designated leadership within Government.

The Commission reports that people from ethnic minority backgrounds do not enjoy equal access to public services highlighting barriers such as the limited availability of appropriately trained interpreters, weaker accountability where State services are delivered through private actors, and divides in education and healthcare.

The Commission will present its recommendations in person to the Government’s Anti-Racism Committee on 16 September, the Committee charged with developing Ireland’s National Action Plan Against Racism due to be published later this year.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated today:

“Addressing racism in Ireland requires mobilisation across Irish society. Put simply it needs to be a priority not only in our laws, our public services and our budgets, but also in the places where we learn, where we work, and where we meet.

“Ireland’s National Action Plan against Racism is an opportunity to focus our national will and energy towards ending racial discrimination and disadvantage, so that we can each benefit from the equal involvement of all.

“To be effective it will need to be structured to include clear targets, indicators, outcomes, timeframes and a budget line. Monitoring the delivery of the National Action Plan Against Racism must include participation of the people affected, and there should be an independent evaluation of both the process and outcomes of the plan, based on human rights and equality principles.”

“We see a need for prioritisation of policing and law enforcement in the content of Ireland’s National Action Plan Against Racism, as has been done in the European Anti-Racism Action Plan.”

“Racial discrimination leaves a trail of human destruction for those targeted, which can lead to substance abuse, depression, thoughts of suicide, and people cutting themselves off from public services. The Commission has heard directly how mental health problems among ethnic minority children and young people are ‘not taken seriously enough’.”

The Commission’s recommendations for the National Action Plan Against Racism include that the State should:

On Education (pp36)

  • review the equality implications of use of the past pupil criterion in education admissions; to address the use of reduced timetables and to put in place programmes to improve education outcomes for Traveller and Roma children.
  • address educational issues for children in the international protection process, including adequate resourcing of English language supports, IT equipment and transport to ensure access to after-school activities, as well as provision of information resources to families about registering for a school place.
  • develop a transparent plan on the divestment and patronage of schools, with provision for sanctions for inadequate implementation.
  • embed mandatory antiracism programmes at all levels of the education system, as well as in initial teacher training and continuous professional development programmes. Antiracism education should include content tailored to different groups’ experiences of racism such as Travellers and People of African Descent.

On Policing (pp65)

  • target the recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse police service which fully reflects the diversity of Irish society.
  • set specific targets for diversity in An Garda Síochána’s recruitment procedures and Garda promotion policies should be regularly evaluated to address underrepresentation of minority groups.
  • address existing negative attitudes amongst Garda members towards minority ethnic groups and set out measures to address racial profiling, including reports from young minority ethnic people.

On Health (pp54)

  • increase access to healthcare for ethnic minority groups disproportionately impacted through lack of access to private healthcare services, due to being over-represented in poverty and unemployment.
  • take seriously the mental health impacts of racist incidents, discrimination, micro-aggressions and a lack of accurate representation, which have been highlighted by ethnic minority young people  as having the most detrimental impact on their mental wellbeing, leading to constant alertness, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
  • respond to the urgent need for Traveller-focused suicide prevention supports and support for the suicide bereaved.
  • task the Department of Health and the HSE to increase access to, treatment in, and routes through the Irish healthcare service system for members of ethnic minority groups.

On ethnic equality monitoring (pp13)

  • address the shortfall in data on racial or ethnic origin in Ireland which has profound consequences for our understanding of racial discrimination in Ireland– specifically when examining structural and institutional barriers facing ethnic minorities.
  • establish a clear mandate for the collection and processing of data on racial or ethnic origin across all public bodies, particularly An Garda Síochána.


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

087 0697095

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Notes to editor:

The full recommendations from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to the Anti-Racism Committee are available at the link below:

Developing a National Action Plan Against Racism – IHREC Submission to the Anti-Racism Committee

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.