NCCRI Report of Incidents relating to racism reported to the NCCRI
November 2001 to April 2002
In May 2001 the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism
(NCCRI) established a procedure for incidents related to racism in Ireland .
The first Report was published in October 2001. This is the second report, which
- Provide an overview of racist incidents reported to the NCCRI in the six
months since the first report.
- Draw out the key issues arising from the incidents logged.
- Outline how the NCCRI has responded to the key issues identified in this
The majority of the incidents that are included in this report have been forwarded
by non-government organisations working closely with the NCCRI, including key
organisations working with Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers and migrants.
Other incidents are reported directly to the NCCRI. There are a number of procedures
put in place by the NCCRI to check the veracity of the reports.
The data that is generated by this reporting system is primarily qualitative
and indicative of key issues that need to be addressed. This report does not
seek to provide a comprehensive list of every racist incident in Ireland. Indeed
the evidence from other countries tends to show that with all such reporting
systems, whether statutory or voluntary, there is likely to be significant under-reporting
Organisations and individuals reporting incidents have also been encouraged
to report the incident to the relevant authority responsible for investigating
and addressing the complaint, for example, the Gardai (racist crime), the Equality
Authority (racism in the workplace, provision of goods and services etc), and
local authorities (graffiti, harassment on local authority housing estates etc).
The report indicates how the NCCRI has responded to the general issues arising
from the incidents.
In a small number of instances those involved in or reporting the incident
only want the incident to be logged by the NCCRI, with no further action taken.
These requests have been respected.
Summary of Main Conclusions
- There were 40 forms of racist incidents reported to the NCCRI between
October 2001 and March 2002
- 49% of the incidents are reported as occurring in the greater Dublin
- 39% of incidents occurred in urban areas outside of Dublin.
- 12% of incidents occurred in predominantly rural areas.
Among the key issues that have emerged from this report include:
- Assaults and harassment
- The delivery of public and private services
- Misinformation and the circulation of offensive material.
Assaults and harassment
The fatal assault on a Chinese student, who was attacked in Dublin in January
2002, may be the first death related to racism recorded in recent years. While
the incident has yet to be fully investigated, there are indications from contemporary
media reports that racism may have played an important element in this assault.
The NCCRI responded to this issue by addressing a meeting, which was organised
by Amnesty student society in Trinity College Dublin, which was attended by
over 50 ethnically Chinese students studying in third level colleges in Ireland.
There was considerable fear among the students attending the meeting about their
safety following the assault and a sense of anger and a questioning of why the
youth accused of the assault had been released on bail. The meeting was also
addressed by a representative of the Racial and Intercultural Unit of the Gardai.
The other case that has received considerable publicity in recent months was
the conviction of two women in Cork who were involved in a serious racist assault
on a French national of Morocco background.
Despite these high profile cases, overall there would appear to have been a
significant decrease in the number of assaults and incidents of harassment reported
to the NCCRI compared with the period covered by the first report on racist
incidents. The previous high level of assaults can be explained by the charged
atmosphere that followed the aftermath of September 11th, when assaults were
directed against people perceived to be Islamic or from middle-eastern origin.
The leadership role of the Government played in the aftermath of the September
11th attacks demonstrated through visits to the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin
and the issuing of press statements condemning attacks on the Islamic community
has been identified by the Islamic community as an important factor in creating
a calmer environment in the wake of the September 11th attacks.
However serious assaults and harassment continue to be reported to the NCCRI.
Over the past six months, there have been a number of racist assaults, which
have been brought to the attention of the NCCRI that which have not been highlighted
by the media.
One example is the case of two women of Chinese ethnic origin who are visiting
Ireland as part of their professional studies. In March 2002, the two women
were attacked by four youths in their early 20's in an incident on Dublin's
quays. One youth kicked one of the women on both ankles and all four youths
shouted racist abuse and chased after the two women after the assault. The two
women have been left in shock and fear for their ongoing safety following the
attack and have sought assurances from friends and colleagues about their continuing
safety in Ireland. This attack once again shows that many racists will often
target people in vulnerable circumstances, such as women on their own or men
and women with children.
A further example of the cowardly nature of such attacks is the continuing
harassment experienced by a Bosnian woman single parent living in a housing
estate in a western suburban area of Dublin, which was also highlighted in the
first report. The woman who has two children aged 6 and 8 is a widow whose husband
was killed in one of the Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia. The windows of her
house have been broken on a regular basis by local youths and graffiti has been
painted on her door. The woman, whose neighbours have been very supportive,
has been on the housing list for several months waiting to move from her end
of terrace house to a safer mid terrace house. The local Garda station and the
Racial and Intercultural Unit have also offered assistance to the woman. The
NCCRI has written to the local authority and the Reception and Integration Agency
seeking support for re-housing.
A further example of an assault is the case of one Malaysian Islamic woman
with her three small children who was sprayed with a foul smelling liquid in
a main shopping Centre in the Dublin 24 area. Three children were involved in
the assault. Three security guards came to the aid of the woman very quickly,
but were unable to catch the perpetrators.
There were three incidents reported of visibly pregnant Black women being verbally
abused in Dublin, with taunts that they were only getting pregnant for citizenship
purposes. This followed a period of sustained public debate on the issue of
automatic citizenship for children born to non-EU nationals in Ireland. It is
clear that the willingness of people to engage in extreme comments on this issue
contributes to creating an environment where such attacks are more possible.
The NCCRI has responded to this issue by
challenging some of the misinformation and hyperbole generated
in public debate about the citizenship issue. For instance,
one newspaper report equated births to non-nationals in
maternity hospitals to the births given by asylum seekers.
This is at best a careless use of the term 'non-national'
as it covers any mother who is not Irish, irrespective of
their legal status. Ireland has witnessed a significant
increase in immigration in recent years which is unconnected
to the number of asylum seekers.
The debate has also shown that there is potential for blaming asylum seekers
for existing difficulties in our health services, such as shortage of nurses
or other resources. The NCCRI has further pointed out that the Irish health
services, including our maternity services, are dependent on attracting and
retaining migrant workers as doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. The tone of
some of the present debate and the levels of racism in general may result in
some of these valuable staff members leaving Ireland.
Whatever the outcomes of the current public debate and the ongoing legal process
in the courts on the issue of citizenship, there is strong danger that if a
referendum is held on this issue it could generate considerably more offensive
behaviour towards people perceived to be asylum seekers and migrants.
Delivery of public and private services
There have been a number of cases reported to the NCCRI in relation to the
delivery of public and private services. The following serve as examples:
A Congolese woman who has full refugee status and works as a factory operative
had considerable difficulty in opening a bank account. The woman made an appointment
with the bank and brought her passport and a bill with her as proof of identity
and address. The bank refused to open an account unless the woman brought another
document. On her fourth visit she was informed that the bill she brought on
the first occasion was not acceptable. An Irish person rang separately to check
if the same type bill was acceptable for him to open an account and the bank
confirmed that it was acceptable. The woman wrote to the bank manager and the
CEO of the bank. The manager sent a written letter apologising that the wrong
information had been given to her and that she could open an account.
A black Irish woman was treated very insensitively by a hospital receptionist
who presumed she was an asylum seeker. The woman who was heavily pregnant at
the time, was upset by the incident and reported it directly to the NCCRI.
In another incident two teenage boys who suffered facial injuries following
an accident were brought to a Dublin hospital. The mother of one of the boys
alleges that her son who is black was left in a corridor for many hours while
the other boy, his friend who was white was treated almost immediately. The
woman supplied photographs of the injuries of both boys to the NCCRI. The NCCRI
encouraged the woman to make a formal complaint to the hospital concerned and
to the Equality Authority.
There have also been examples of hospital staff intervening to challenge racism.
In another incident a receptionist intervened on behalf of a Nigerian asylum
seeker who was working in the hospital in a voluntary capacity and was on the
receiving end of racist comments by some patients. The receptionist spoke out
on behalf of the Nigerian voluntary worker and criticised the comments made
by the patients.
In responding to some of the issues identified
in this report, the NCCRI and the Irish Health Services
Management Institute (IHSMI) organised a conference on the
challenges of cultural diversity in the health services
in November 2001. The report of the conference and a proposal
to develop guidelines for staff and the delivery of health
services is to be launched by Micheal Martin TD, Minister
for Health and Children on Monday 25th March in Cork University
The issue of inappropriate and sometimes offensive behaviour by front line
immigration staff working in Dublin Airport was also highlighted by three reports
to the NCCRI. There is very little evidence to date on the scale of this problem,
but it is an issue that needs further monitoring and remedial action, even if
it is only occurring on an infrequent basis. The reports ranged from the concerns
of a Dutch national who is black who has been approached on two separate occasions
by the same immigration official, much to his and his friends embarrassment.
The immigration official indicated to the man that he recognised him from before.
The man was given no reason why he was stopped and questioned on both occasions.
The man was concerned that such incidents will occur again as he has a regular
visitor to Ireland, where his partner lives, and gave his full name and contact
address to the NCCRI in the Netherlands and in Ireland. The NCCRI has conveyed
his concern to the Garda station at Dublin airport and recommended that he make
a formal complaint if it happens again.
In two separate incidents, asylum seekers have alleged that they have been
subjected to off hand and offensive comments when they arrived in Dublin airport
by immigration official. It is difficult to check the veracity of such reports,
as the complainants are reluctant to press formal complaints given their vulnerable
legal status. The Gardai have recently indicated that they will be undertaking
further anti racism training with immigration staff.
There were 22 incidents of Travellers being denied access to public houses
and hotels over the Christmas period reported to the NCCRI in the past six months.
Approximately half of these incidents were reported by the individuals concerned
to the Equality Authority. This may indicate that the problem is currently underreported.
The incidents involved refusal of entry and cancellation of bookings.
There have been other examples of good practice by government departments and
statutory authorities in recent weeks. As part of the events around March 21st,
the Department of Social and Community Affairs has published a booklet providing
staff with advice on the delivery of services to non-nationals. A further good
example was the seminar organised by the Institute of Public Administration
on racism in the workplace linked to March 21st and the Gardai have also organised
a number of initiatives linked to International Day Against Racism and are currently
developing a trans national initiative linked to the challenges of policing
in a multicultural society. The Equality Authority has also been active in developing
guidelines on equality proofing which has direct relevance to statutory authorities.
Misinformation and the circulation of offensive material.
There has been an upsurge in racist and linked offensive literature in the
period, some of which is clearly linked to securing votes in the forthcoming
general election. There were five different circulars of a racist or neo racist
nature received by the NCCRI from recipients. Four of these circulars had no
named organisation claiming ownership of their contents.
The remaining leaflet was widely circulated by the Immigration Control Platform
in the Dublin 7 and parts of Dublin 4 areas. The same organisation has announced
it will be putting forward two candidates in the forthcoming election in Dublin
The NCCRI has challenged the Immigration Control Platform (ICP) to publish
details about the origin of its funding, its officer board, its membership and
to respond to the allegation in a reputable British Sunday newspaper that the
chairperson of the British National Party has been in frequent contact with
the ICP. The NCCRI has also referred the leaflet distributed by the ICP for
investigation by the Gardai to ascertain whether it contravenes the Prohibition
of Incitement to Hatred Act (1989).
There has been a significant increase in the number of racist and linked offensive
e-mails and letters being sent to organisations working against racism and organisations
working with refugees and asylum seekers. Six examples of racist mail has been
forwarded to, or received by the NCCRI in the past six months.
There were 18 phone complaints received
by the NCCRI in relation to a student type magazine called
'The Slate'. The magazine was handed out free in outlets
such one well-known record chain, public houses and Internet
cafes. Samantha Mumba and the mother of Phil Lynott also
condemned attributed quotations in the magazine.
The nature of some media reports have also
been highlighted to the NCCRI. One such report was forwarded
by a representative organisation of the Islamic community
referring to an article in a local newspaper, which states
'Can the evil that is Islam, at least in part be changed.'
And 'If Arab countries cannot control their criminal monsters,
someone else will have to do it for them.'
A further report also objected to the insensitivity
of a journalist of national tabloid paper 'door-stepping'
Muslim men as they entered a Mosque to pray.
Three reports also complained about the role of a radio station in Cork which
was reported as giving substantial airtime to aggrieved and outraged listeners
concerning two rumours with no apparent basis in fact and with no substantiated
evidence to prove their veracity. The two rumours given substantial airtime
concerned an asylum seeker who was said to have bought a car using a cheque
made out to his name by the local authority. The other rumour was a woman reported
as being in a shop laden with sweets and food for a child's birthday that was
supposed to have been paid for by the immigration authorities. The Southern
Regional Health Board, local community groups and advice centres such as NASC
spent a considerable amount of time and energy refuting these rumours. In the
meantime much damage had been caused to the perception of asylum seekers in
The comments of a Cork TD were criticised
through 15 reports to the NCCRI by phone and e-mail. The
TD was widely reported in the national press as saying 'we
are against the spongers, the freeloaders, the people screwing
the system. Too many are coming to Ireland and too many
to Cork in my view. In the past five years there have been
35,000 applications for asylum and 80% of those have been
from illegal immigrants using the refugee system to get
in. I'm saying we will have to close the doors. The majority
of them are here for economic reasons and they are thumbing
their noses at Irish hospitality.'
The NCCRI will monitoring developments in Ireland in the run up to the general
election, and welcomed the recently reaffirmed cross party support for the Protocol
on the Conduct of Elections, signed by all parties in the Oireachtas. In a further
response to this issue the NCCRI in partnership with the Office of UN High Commissioner
for Refugees will be publishing a leaflet challenging the misinformation and
labelling circulating about refugees and asylum seekers.
Many of the offensive websites that were highlighted in the first report by
the NCCRI continue to operate with impunity. They form a semi permanent form
of incitement to hatred. The previous report highlighted the problems of closing
such sites down and urged for new legislation at both national and international
The forthcoming government national action plan against racism provides a significant
opportunity for these issues to be addressed in a comprehensive way. A consultative
conference will be held on March 28th to begin the process of developing the
- A key and urgent priority is the issue of racist assaults. The
Gardai have an important role to play in this regard and the ongoing work
of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Unit is to be welcomed and supported.
The need for closer monitoring of the role of immigration officers has been
identified as an issue that needs further investigation in this report.
- The next NCCRI report will focus on the run up to the general election
and will encourage organisations to forward reports of emotive or misleading
- The role of political parties in monitoring and responding to transgressions
under the political protocol covering elections is also very important in
- A referendum on the question of citizenship for Irish born children
should be avoided if possible because of its potential to create a very negative
environment for people perceived to be non nationals, particularly pregnant
- The continuing denial of Travellers to pubs and hotels is of ongoing
concern, particularly the incidents around Christmas when there was an upsurge
in such reports. Further action is needed on this issue and the outcomes of
the Office of Director of Equality Investigations have been very important
in vindicating these rights.
- There is an ongoing need for sections of the media not to engage
in sensationalising issues while respecting their right to report what is
in the public interest. In particular more context and background on issues
should be provided where possible.