Thursday, 12 December 2019
Racism Affecting Ethnic Minorities in Ireland: Statements
I welcome the opportunity to debate this important issue. Racist incidents can gain momentum quickly, in particular because of the extra oxygen provided by social media. Their effects can be devastating on individuals and can last a lifetime. The majority of Irish society has been remarkably open and welcoming to migrants and, over the past two decades and more, we have welcomed people from across the world.
The ESRI's latest monitoring report on integration, which I published in November 2018, confirms the diversity of Ireland's population. Some 17% of people living here were born outside Ireland and many have been given the opportunity to acquire Irish citizenship. Ireland is one of 13 EU member states that offers citizenship where an applicant has been resident for five years, and one of 16 member states permitting dual citizenship. Approximately 120,000 people have received Irish citizenship since 2011, with the latest cohort participating in moving ceremonies this week in Killarney. This represents more than 2.5% of the total Irish population. Those lucky enough to attend citizenship ceremonies see at first hand the joy migrants feel on becoming Irish citizens.
I reported last week to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD, in Geneva on the actions Ireland has taken since 2011 to promote equality and combat racial discrimination. The Government supports CERD's work to create a world where all can enjoy opportunities, free of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality. The report to CERD set out the range of measures the Government and its predecessor has taken to strengthen the rights infrastructure so that it can challenge racism more effectively. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 introduced the equality and human rights positive duty. Public bodies have a duty under section 42 of the 2014 Act to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and protect the human rights of service users and staff. Public bodies must set out in their statements of strategy how they intend to fulfil this duty. As such, the legislation provides structural underpinning for action by public bodies on equality, human rights and the combatting of discrimination, including racism.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, has been given a range of powers to challenge discrimination, including against ethnic minorities, and seek legal redress for persons experiencing discrimination. One of its new functions under the 2014 Act is to encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State. IHREC's role of promoting intercultural understanding constitutes an additional mechanism, not only for promoting integration but also for understanding the factors that can lead to discrimination against ethnic and racial minorities.
In parallel, An Garda Síochána has undertaken reforms to strengthen its capacity to respond to the needs of minorities. In October 2019, the Garda Commissioner and I launched the Garda Síochána diversity and integration strategy for 2019 to 2021. The themes of the strategy focus on protecting the community, developing robust data systems, upskilling the police force to understand the needs of diverse communities and respond to crimes perpetrated against them. The strategy includes a working definition of hate crime, in line with international best practice, aimed at enhancing positive engagement with persons from minority groups and diverse backgrounds.
The Garda national diversity and integration unit, GNDIU, is monitoring the reporting and recording of all forms of hate crime on PULSE, the Garda recording system.
I also commend Garda Commissioner Harris on An Garda Síochána's recent decision that, subject to operational, and health and safety obligations, its policy on uniform is being updated to take account of religious and ethnic requirements in order to encourage candidates from minority communities. An Garda Síochána is allowing the wearing of the turban for members of the Sikh community and the hijab for members of the Muslim community.
The Government recognises the need for further action to combat racism. I have established an anti-racism committee which will be chaired by Professor Caroline Fennell of UCC. It has a mandate to review current evidence and practice and make recommendations to Government on how best to strengthen its approach to tackling racism. The committee will be a broad-based partnership of State and non-State actors, including employers and unions, religious, sports, arts and community groups and media organisations. Its purpose is to develop an understanding of the nature and prevalence of racism in Ireland today and to work towards achieving a social consensus on actions required on the part of the member organisations and others. The committee will hold its first meeting in January 2020 and I have asked for it to submit its first report to the Government within three months.
The threat of racism is not experienced by migrants only. Travellers and other ethnic minorities can experience racist incidents in our society and have done so. The Government has worked actively to promote opportunities for Travellers and to recognise their rights. As I reported to CERD last week, the landmark development has been the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority. Those members of Dáil Éireann who were present on the night of 1 March 2017, when the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, made the statement recognising Travellers as an ethnic minority, will agree that it was a truly memorable event, with all political parties united in support of the Taoiseach's statement. Recognition of Traveller ethnicity has been a symbolic step forward in the State's acknowledgement of the uniqueness of Traveller identity and culture and generates mutual understanding and respect between Traveller and non-Traveller communities. Recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority will not remove overnight all of the obstacles that have prevented them from experiencing full equality within Irish society. However, it has created a strong platform of respectful dialogue and pathways towards equality for Travellers. It demonstrates the commitment of Government towards recognising the contribution that Travellers have made to Irish society and culture and removing the barriers that have limited their opportunities.
The Government has worked actively to address structural issues facing minorities. To ensure a whole-of-government approach to delivery, it has adopted a strategic approach to policy on migrants, Travellers and Roma. The migrant integration strategy, which I launched in February 2017 and which runs from 2017 to 2020, provides the framework for action to support migrant integration. It commits public bodies to take action on employment, education, access to public services, political participation and immigration. It requires all public bodies to mainstream integration issues into their work. It includes specific actions to tackle racism, from the review of hate speech legislation to requiring local authorities to remove racist graffiti and to ensure that there is migrant representation on joint policing committees. I chair the strategy committee, which includes representatives of NGOs and public bodies and meets quarterly to monitor implementation of the strategy and to press for delivery of specific actions.
The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021, NTRIS, which I launched in June 2017, is also a whole-of-government strategy aimed at improving the lives of the Traveller and Roma communities. The NTRIS has focused in particular on education, recognising the linkage between educational attainment and life opportunities. A two-year pilot project has been established in Galway, Dublin, Wexford and Cork to target attendance, participation and school completion in specific Traveller and Roma communities regionally. An additional €500,000 was provided to my Department in budget 2019 to support this vital initiative, bringing total expenditure on the pilot to €2.2 million. As such it provides an important example of how the strategic approach enables Departments, agencies and NGOs to work together to tackle structural issues. All the Traveller NGOs are represented in the implementation of NTRIS and they are making very important inputs into the work of the strategy.
I strongly believe that one means of combatting racism is the development of community initiatives which bring communities together in support of integration and diversity and, most importantly, allow people to get to know one another. To this end, I launched the communities integration fund in 2017. This fund supports local initiatives by migrant and non-migrant groups to promote integration. Some 124 organisations received funding from this initiative in 2019. Initiatives are being funded which are explicitly intended to challenge racism at grassroots level. I have also sought to strengthen the participation of community groups in welcoming refugees to Ireland. I was inspired by the community sponsorship model developed in Canada, whereby local communities sponsor refugee families to settle in their towns and villages. When I visited similar projects in the UK, I saw at first hand how integration outcomes are improved for refugees when communities and neighbours take part in the resettlement process. Following a successful pilot programme in Meath and Cork, I formally launched Community Sponsorship Ireland on 15 November this year. I invite colleagues in the Oireachtas to acquaint themselves with this programme and to act as leaders in their own communities by helping to bring refugee families from Lebanon into their communities and by using this initiative to help them resettle. Community Sponsorship Ireland is a fantastic programme that is really positive and really works. Not only do the refugee families benefit hugely from it, local communities and sponsors also tell me they get huge personal satisfaction from involvement in this programme.
Combatting racism involves the broader public as well as the Government. As the Irish proverb says, "Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine"; people live in one another's shelter. I believe that strengthening communities to work together to promote integration will build the capacity within our society to recognise the common need for shelter and belonging, and so will challenge racism and protect the rights of minorities.
I also wish to commend the communities and leaders across the country who have set up friendship groups and welcome groups linked to accommodation centres. The most recent of these are in Borrisokane, Ballinamore and Ennis. People who came in from outside and are now living in the communities are experiencing a very positive welcome. Last Friday I met public representatives and civic leaders from Borrisokane. I was really moved by their initiative, their commitment and their welcome for the stranger in their midst. I saw the same in Ballinamore. They had lots of challenges. We met and we listened, and the community has now come together. The same has happened in Ballaghaderreen and Wicklow. Throughout the country, such centres work extremely well when local people get involved. When they get to know migrants, they really embrace and welcome them. We want to see more of that.
Ireland has built its tourism industry and even its identity around the concept of the welcome. Our fáilte is world-renowned but there has been precious little of the céad míle fáilte in our public discourse recently. Unwarranted attacks on asylum seekers and people from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as unfounded inferences and accusations not based on fact, were made in this very Chamber only weeks ago. I want to look at racism today as something that starts from the top and can seep and spread into all aspects of Irish life. We, the legislators and public representatives, must not only guard against racism but must become the champions of the oppressed and those who are discriminated against, the new citizens of our country experiencing vile abuse on a daily basis. We must say, quite simply, that this has to stop. We should strive to make that concept, that image, that open-hearted gesture we are so famous for, and make it central to who we are. We should extend our fáilte to everyone and make tolerance and compassion our only standard when it comes to dealing with others, no matter what their background, origin, race or colour. As HG Wells said, "Our true nationality is mankind." It is who we are at our core. We are all human, enduring the same struggles and successes and striving towards the same goals - to be safe, to be healthy, to work and contribute to society and for our families to do the same.
There is a phrase creeping into our discourse; the "white Irish". I abhor and refute the notion that somehow there is one type of Irish person who means more than another. The Minister of State referenced the ceremony in Killarney this week at which 2,000 people from Poland, the UK, Nigeria and all over the world were made citizens of our Republic. It is not in our remit or power to tell these new citizens they are lesser citizens than others.
I do not need to remind a single person in this House or anyone who is listening of our history, our well-trodden path of emigration to countries all over the world. When we were hungry, or rather starving; when we were poor; when our pockets and wallets were empty and there was no prospect of work; when we had no hope of ever being able to afford a house in our glorious Republic; when our system failed us as citizens; when we faced discrimination; when our language taken away from us; and when we came out of jail as political prisoners and were told to take the boat, that is what we did. We took the boat and later the plane. We looked up from our misery and woes and remembered who we were and who we still are; citizens of Europe and citizens of the world.
Those before us, whose shoulders we stand on, took the bravest step any person can take.
They left their worlds, lives, homes, security, culture, and families. They left so much behind them and ventured out into this brave new world, this great unknown, this adventure of a lifetime. In many instances, they found what they were looking for, in America, Canada, Australia and in England. In countries all over the world, the Irish arrived and the Irish thrived. This story of emigration, of leaving our home behind us and arriving in a new country is more than something we are familiar with, it is scored into our DNA, it is written in our very bones. It wrings the heart of every parent who witnesses their child walking through the departure gates of airports to new lives far away from our tiny island home.
If we lose sight of our history, we will forget who we are. We are a nation of adventurers, travellers, migrants, emigrants and immigrants, a nation of millions who were brave enough to leave their misery behind them and leave in search of a better life. Just as we left, so too have all the diverse nationalities who are arriving daily on our shores. Instead of judging, we must welcome. Instead of bad-mouthing them, we must listen to their stories and discover who they are. Instead of meeting those people with unfounded fears, we must meet them with tolerance and acceptance, compassion and humanity.
Ireland is now a diverse and multicultural country. There is no such thing any more as white Irish. The growing diversity in our population has sadly been matched with a growth of racial intolerance, violence, and discrimination. As I mentioned at the beginning of my contribution, we have seen inflammatory remarks made in this very Chamber and from candidates running for office. For that reason, as public representatives, we must be absolute and vigilant in our leadership on this issue. We must be absolutely intolerant of intolerance. We must be the watchdogs on unsuitable language. It is imperative that we lead the way for all of society.
More effort must be put into integration. We must act now or it will be too late. I commend Fáilte Isteach, a programme of third age, which is run by Áine Brady, CEO, a former Member of this House. It has 132 branches and 1,100 trained tutors who are all volunteers. They are doing incredible work, which is recognised across Europe. The programme provides training in Germany and Italy. If we are not proactive in recognising Ireland's new-found diversity and celebrating it, there is a danger that we will witness segregation and tension, which we see at the moment among our nearest neighbours. We are not doing enough to integrate newly arriving migrants into society. Ireland's national action plan against racism has not been renewed or updated since 2008.
Ireland is one of the only western democracies that relies on the wider criminal law system, rather than specific hate crime legislation. The Bill I introduced in 2016 passed Second Stage three years ago, but the Government has refused to issue a money message to allow it to progress. As the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is aware, that failure to introduce hate crime legislation was the subject of much criticism from the UN when Ireland's progress on eliminating racial discrimination was before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last week. I am aware the Minister of State was present. Our own agencies are doing Trojan work in the field of combatting racism but they also have plenty of criticism to levy at the Government for its inaction on this issue and its failure to promote integration and inclusion in society. The immediate issues affecting people who are subjected to racism include hate speech and crime, inequality in the workplace, homelessness and education. This gap in legislation has been highlighted by many, including the Garda Síochána and legal practitioners. A number of high-profile cases of hate crime highlight the pressing need for legislation to address the issue. I welcome the recent decision of An Garda Síochána to introduce a working definition of "hate crime", but much more needs to be done. The most basic support the Garda requires is effective legislation through which perpetrators can be prosecuted.
Homelessness is an issue that has been much debated in this Chamber in recent weeks. I wish to highlight the challenges faced by families of Roma and African descent, as such people often find it impossible to secure any accommodation on the private rental market. Last weekend, in a sermon delivered to mark the beginning of Advent, Dr. Diarmuid Martin said that he was "horrified" to find racism among believers in the church. He said:
l think of the emergence of a new language of racism, at times understated in its expression but just as nasty in its effects on men and women who need our help, our care and our respect. I am horrified to find traces of such racism among believers. The terms 'refugee' and 'asylum seeker' should only arouse heartfelt concern in the Christian heart.
There is a staggering dearth of leadership on this issue from our political masters, and it is incumbent on the Government to lead. There are many steps the public can take in terms of reporting hate crime and people must do that. It is not enough to clap ourselves on the back when the Irish Naval Service rescues emigrants in the Mediterranean. It is not enough to be shocked when we hear of people dying while they are being smuggled. It is not enough to shed tears at the sight of dead children like Alan Kurdi on the beach, because they were drowned while fleeing persecution. We need to do more. We need to tackle racism collectively, as a society. We must find it in our hearts to extend the welcome that was extended to the emigrating Irish all over the world. We must accept the diversity of our society and always remember acceptance of other cultures is not a denial of our own.
Tonight's statements on racism are very apt and are a positive opportunity for us to say something loud and clear and for those of us in public life to put ourselves into a leadership position. It is also important for communities that we make it clear that racism should not have any place in society at any level. People often point to the far right as being the problem and suggest that a distant, elusive group is behind it all. I know there is some truth in that, and some groups are active on social media but what I fear more than the far right is the near right, the nice sensible people in areas where a number of people of foreign origin live or work who have a terrible attitude to them based on their race. I recently spoke to someone about migrants coming to an area and he said, "God knows what kind of people would come here". I asked him to repeat it slowly. He started with "God knows". There is a reference to God but at the same time the phrase is used as a means of somehow denigrating other human beings. That is something that flies in the face of everything that so-called Christians are supposed to believe in. Sometimes I find it very hard to understand all of that.
Fear is one of the factors at the core of the issue - fear of the stranger. If one is afraid of something, it is a very short distance to hate. That is the problem we have. This is always about fear. If one looks at any of the stuff being peddled by the people on the far right to whom we referred, it all has a sense of fear attached. It has a fascist element as well. Fascism is a well-organised minority controlling the disorganised majority. We have a little bit of that across the entire country. I do not wish to be overly political but we must understand that whether it is in a rural or urban area, if communities feel they have been left behind that is fertile ground for such people to spread their message. I refer to an area where a family has a child with autism and an SNA cannot be provided in the school, where their neighbour is on a waiting list for a hospital operation and the woman down the road has some other issue concerning lack of access to a State service. Such places are fertile ground for right-wing people who say the foreigners will come in and they will get everything.
People are inclined to believe and embrace that. That is one of the difficulties we have. All the years of austerity in this country have led to some of this. We have to be responsible and understand that. We have to understand that people's sense of outrage over having been left behind in so many ways, and they have, has led to circumstances that are fertile for many to carry on with this kind of nonsense. They are at it everywhere. The years of austerity and the annoyance with the Government cannot in any way be underestimated as reasons we got into these circumstances. They should not be but that does not mean we cannot change, show leadership and work to make things different.
Let me refer to the activity we see, particularly on Facebook and other social media, regarding the Irish being almost some kind of super-race. I hear it talked of. One of the fascist statements I read more than any other implies we are great people, we went to every corner of the world, we built America, we did this, that and the other, and we are so great we should dominate. That is the message being circulated. It is a racial message. It is also said that we should take our proportion of people. It is only in the context of race that people talk about proportionality. They do not talk about it in any other context. If a large factory were to open up in a town and 500 young workers were to come to the area, people would not say, "Oh God, we could not possibly put up with that." It would not be said it is out of proportion. The people would welcome what was happening. It is only when it comes to race that the argument I have mentioned arises. The argument needs to be called out clearly. Many who use it do not understand or know it is a far-right argument. The near right take it up and we have to be careful in this context.
It is important to understand the types of migrants we have coming to Ireland. We have, of course, asylum seekers, or those who are fleeing persecution and war in many countries around the world. They apply for asylum and enter an asylum process here. We have an international obligation to ensure that we provide for them and that the State provides for them adequately. It is vital that we do this. Of course, many of us have a difficulty with the direct provision system and the way it has evolved over the years, and many of us want to see it come to an end, but we need to see a better system put in place, not no system. We need to work on that. The justice committee launched its report on this issue this morning and while it has pointed to many of the difficulties, it has also pointed to many of the ways forward.
Another set of people who come here comprises refugees, as mentioned by the Minister of State. I refer to programme refugees who have already been processed and who come here, who live in communities here, and who are welcomed and are very easily integrated into the communities because the locals know they are coming on a permanent basis. They are different from the asylum seekers, who are not coming on a permanent basis.
Migrant workers, or migrant immigrants, were mentioned by other Members. I have two nephews, both of the same age, 18. Both are the sons of economic migrants. One is the son of an economic migrant who lives in a little place in upstate New York called Mahopac. His father is my brother and he went to the United States as an economic migrant over 20 years ago. He had no papers but stayed, worked, found his way and managed, as did thousands of others. My other nephew is the son of a man from North Africa who came to Ireland as a young man over 20 years ago. He fell in love with my sister and they got married. The marriage did not last very long but that is life. Shafik is a magnificent young man. He recently won a Naughton scholarship and is doing a degree course in UCD. He got the highest points in the leaving certificate examination in County Leitrim.
The economic migrants coming to this country, or any country, bring great opportunities and advantages. International economic studies have shown that countries that take migrants in, be they illegal or legal, benefit from having them. This is because the migrants come with the sense of wanting to do better. They come from a place that is worse so when they arrive here and see opportunity, they grasp it and run with it. They make sure they deliver for themselves and their communities. They send money back to where they came from, just like we did everywhere we went.
The issue of racism is a vital one to address. How do we know a racist? When we go down the street and meet a garda wearing a uniform, we know it is a garda. When we meet a priest with a round collar, we know he is a priest. Racists wear no uniform and have no distinguishing marks. We only know them by the language they use and the context in which they use it. The context is vital. In recent times, there was a candidate in an election here who used language that I certainly considered to be racist. The language was used in the context of an election campaign so it was not used by accident. It was not something said long ago on a night out or something. It was very deliberate. If this is going to happen, we need to be very careful. Nobody coming into this House should use that type of language.
We have to understand that we have an opportunity as leaders of a nation that has gone to every corner of the world and looked for a welcome. Everywhere we went, our people looked for a welcome. They might not always have got it in the way they liked but they went looking for it. In most places, they did get it, in fairness. They went to England. Most of the people we know in our lives are children of economic migrants who went to other countries to try to do better and came back here and prospered.
We have a significant obligation but also a great opportunity to make this country better. Making it better will involve ensuring that we rid ourselves of this kind of language and hate speech, as well as the ideology behind it. I refer to the ideology that somehow, me and mine are better than somebody else. We are not; we are all equal. That is what we need to drive home very strongly, both from this House and everywhere else.
The issues of asylum seekers and asylum-seeker accommodation are one of the spark points. If we are to deal with it properly, we have to come up with better strategies on how to circulate information and get communities into a mode of greater acceptance and understanding. I do not believe, however, that people deserve to be somehow consulted differently about one colour or a people as if it were different from any other. I am referring to the notion that we have to consult people because they happen to be more vulnerable. We do not have to. We have to accept. We have to understand that the compassion we have should be without limits and that our generosity should not have conditions if we truly are a nation that is going to look to a better future.
This debate is commendable, worthy and worthwhile but it focuses attention only on the work we need to do. We certainly have an awful lot of work to do to progress our society to where it needs to be.
Racism should not be allowed to take root in our society. It is not inevitable and we must act to stamp it out, especially in our politics. Our equality laws prohibit discrimination against employees and customers based on several grounds, including race. The level of formal reporting of racist discrimination is not high but it would be a mistake to believe that means there is no racism in Ireland. On the contrary, from talking to organisations such as Migrant Rights Centre Ireland or Nasc, it is very clear that many experience casual racism as part of their experience of living in Ireland. People who are black or women who wear a Muslim headscarf are more likely to be singled out for verbal or physical abuse. Unfortunately, however, too many people have become used to experiencing low-level abuse and they do not routinely report it to the Garda or other authorities.
It is suggested that some minorities do not have confidence in public authorities to deal seriously with these incidents, which is something we need to address. The iReport website allows people to report racism but it cannot give us anything like a full picture of what is going on. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has detailed statistics on racist incidents. We should provide whatever resources are necessary to make sure the Garda has the same detail in our own official crime statistics in order that we can target responses in areas that are most affected.
Several reports have made it clear that racist incidents, including violence against ethnic minorities, are a real problem for our society. For example, Reports of Racism in Ireland was published by the Irish branch of the European Network Against Racism last year. It documents 256 incidents over a six-month period, including 23 assaults, 35 cases of ongoing harassment and 113 cases of online hate speech. This is the second highest level of incidents since the organisation began collating data in 2013.
Dr. Lucy Michael, lecturer at Ulster University, has found that the same pattern exists in Ireland as elsewhere regarding "extraordinary violence against minorities".
From 1998 until 2008, we had the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. The Government of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, however, cut all funding to that agency, leading to its closure. We have perhaps been too complacent, as we did not seem to have the problems relating to racism and the far right that exist in other European countries and elsewhere. We clearly have a real problem with racism and it is about time we took it more seriously. One way to improve the situation, and to better hear the voices of the people directly affected, would be to restore a publicly-funded organisation to promote interculturalism and to challenge racism. The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism received funding of €562,000 in 2007. If that modest level of funding could help make a difference, we should establish a similar body that could draw on international best practice for this kind of work.
Migrant workers play an essential role in the context of our economy and our public services. Unfortunately, many of those working for low wages are foreign nationals. There are groups of workers in agriculture, fisheries and food industries, and in hospitality, who are often employed on contracts which make them vulnerable and whereby their right to work is tied to a single employer. This means that they may not report abuse for fear of losing their right to work and live here. It is well known that in some industries individuals are blacklisted if they speak out and we have all heard of those cases. This is an issue which the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland, among others, has documented over time.
The Labour Party regards the exploitation of migrant workers as an example of institutional racism. As a society, we cannot turn a blind eye to sections of our economy in which most workers are migrants. If we are serious about stopping racism, we must end the exploitation of migrant workers. One in eight people living in Ireland was born in another country. These people are now part of our society. One in seven of our children and young people has one or both parents from another country, and one in 20 are visibly different because they come from African or Asian backgrounds. We should not make the mistake of assuming that everyone who looks a bit different is automatically a migrant. We have second, third and fourth generation Irish people, who just happen to have an ancestor who came from elsewhere, just as millions of people around the world have Irish ancestors. Ethnic diversity is a permanent feature of modern Ireland and it is something we should celebrate alongside our ancient traditions. My constituency of Dublin Fingal has a wonderful variety of people from all over the world. The mix of cultures and traditions makes a positive contribution to our society and our modern Irish culture.
Politicians from all parties need to take a leadership role in respect of diversity. Sadly, a new toxic racism has entered our politics. A candidate in the presidential election made disparaging comments about Travellers and then certain candidates in the recent by-elections also made comments. Some protests against asylum seekers have been orchestrated by small groups of activists rather than local people. We now have genuinely far-right political parties and individuals spreading all kinds of lies and misinformation that is toxic, racist and totally unacceptable. Outrageous claims have been made, including about Islamists having training camps in the Dublin Mountains. These obviously false claims act as a smokescreen to cover up other lies. One such claim is that all Muslims support Islamic terrorism, which is just outrageous. It is one that sticks in the minds of some people, however.
The recent by-elections have made it clear, I hope, that the public does not support racism entering our politics. Some countries have avoided the rise of far-right racist parties in their political systems. It is not inevitable, therefore, and it can be stopped. It is much harder, however, to get rid of these parties if they gain a foothold. The answer is relatively simple, because nothing is completely simple. If every political party in the present Dáil is genuinely opposed to racism, then we must agree two simple things. Firstly, we must have zero tolerance of any racist candidates in any of our parties and, secondly, we must agree that we will not co-operate with or normalise any political party or independent politician trading on racism or xenophobia. As public representatives, we must show leadership on the issue of racism, diversity and interculturalism and the best way we can do that is by freezing out all politicians who seek to bring racism and racist lies into our politics.