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Sadly, we know racism and discrimination on ethnic and racial grounds is an everyday reality in all societies, and Ireland is no different.
There two pieces of legislation which can provide some protection if you experience racial discrimination. The Equal Status Act provides protection in the provision of good or services and the Employment Equalities Act provides protections in relation to employment.
Both pieces of legislation ban discrimination on any of the following grounds:
Civil status: e.g. single, married, separated, divorced, widowed people, civil partners and former civil partners
Family status: this refers to the parent of a person under 18 years or the resident primary carer or parent of a person with a disability
Sexual orientation: includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual
Religion: means religious belief, background, outlook or none
Age: this does not apply to a person aged under 16
Disability: includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions
*Race: includes race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin*
Membership of the Traveller community.
Discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. An employee is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation. The same applies if a person is discriminated accessing goods or services e.g. access to housing, social welfare, etc.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is a statutory body set up to provide information to the public on human rights and equality legislation, promoting equality and seeking an end to discriminatory practices. It can, at its discretion, provide legal assistance to people who wish to bring claims to the Equality Tribunal.
The Workplace Relations Commission is the place to bring a discrimination claim under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015. It investigates or mediates claims of unlawful discrimination under equality legislation.
One problem is that these laws do not provide specific protections for victims of racist crime. While any racially motivated abuse should be reported to the Gardaí so they can investigate the crime, Ireland does not have effective hate crime legislation, unlike our neighbours in England and Wales. In November 2016 the Garda PULSE system was updated with 11 new categories to capture different types of hate crimes in Ireland, which was a welcome development. Unfortunately we have yet to see how effectively this new recording system is working.
The Immigrant Council, along with a number of other civil society organisations, is calling for effective hate crime legislation which names the specific offences committed in order for the Irish system to recognise and penalise prohibited behaviour with hate motivation.
We monitor racist incidents in Ireland, to inform our advocacy work to ensure the State works to develop effective solutions. Report a racist incident that you have experienced or witnessed.
Knowing what to do in a racist situation can be difficult. Our Be an Ally Against Racism section provides helpful tips and advice on how to react and what to do.