Irish Workplaces – Its About Competence, Not Colour

Today marks the beginning of the Anti-Racist Workplace Week, a joint initiative between the Equality Authority, Congress, the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation and the Construction Industry Federation. “Preventing racism in the workplace is of growing importance”, said Turlough O’Sullivan, Director General of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC). “With the emergence of anti-racism in Ireland, it is all the more important that employers take a leadership role in ensuring that anti-racism does not take hold in the Irish workplace. The focus on training and practical responses that employers and employees can take, is a welcome theme of this second Anti-Racist Work Place Week.

Endorsing Anti-Racism in the Workplace Week, Mr Joe McDonagh, Chairman of the Steering Committee for Know Racism (the National Anti-Racism Awareness Programme) said, ” It is vital that racist behaviour in the workplace, whether by employers or employees is challenged if we are to combat this serious and growing problem in Irish society. Every employer and service provider is obliged to create an environment that is free of racial abuse, intimidation and harassment for both employees and customers. Based on this, I would appeal to all employees to join in our efforts to make this week a great success and to help create the conditions where racism is not allowed to exist”.

David Begg, General Secretary from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions stressed that ” the elimination of racism is an important objective and the social partners need to play an active role in its achievement. The creation of anti-racist workplaces is a key foundation for our work on this issue”

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said “Today we stand with total direct employment in the Construction Industry at 185,000 compared with a figure of around 90,000 in 1993. A significant number of these new employees have come from outside the jurisdiction and have had no previous connection with Ireland. The threat of racism is not always overtly displayed in the workplace, so it is through the provision of training and an increased awareness programme that CIF hopes to support its Members in eliminating any potential threat”, stated Liam Kelleher, Director General of CIF.

Launching ‘Promoting an Intercultural Workplace’ a compendium of good anti-racist practice in the workplace, Niall Crowley Chief Executive Officer of the Equality Authority highlighted the importance for employers of :


  • extending the focus of their equal opportunities policies and practices to include the grounds of race and membership of the Traveller community;
  • expanding their training provisions to include a focus on racism, to ensure racism cannot lead to discrimination or harassment, and to build an intercultural ethos.
  • accommodating cultural diversity in their communications with employers and in their organisation of the workplace.


“These are all important and required foundations for the intercultural workplace. Companies have seen a value in developing approaches to anti-racism in the workplace that go beyond the avoidance of discrimination to proactively pursue equality. It is this additional dimension that will be so important if the workplace is to be truly intercultural and if it is so lead the emergence of a wider intercultural society.” concluded Mr. Crowley.

All partners express satisfaction in the fact that they are working in co-operation with each other to ensure the impact and success of this the second anti-racist workplace week from November 5th to 9th 2001. Many organisations are holding anti-racist initiatives throughout the week and further details can be had from the partners or the Equality Authority.