Number of hate crimes in Ireland could be significantly higher than official figures suggest

The head of ENAR Ireland says there is widespread under-reporting of racially motivated incidents

Garda, gardai, police,

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/Rolling News

The number of racially motivated crimes in Ireland could be significantly higher than the official figures suggest, according to a European anti-racism group.

Last week, an alleged racist attack is said to have seen two young adults and a 13-year-old boy subjected to a brutal assault near Marlay Park in Dublin.

The Irish Times reports that the three have since been discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for injuries.

An Afghan man - whose brothers and son were victims of the alleged assault - said he fears for the safety of his family here following the incident.

Figures published by The Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration show there were 98 reports of racially motivated crime here in 2014.

However, Shane O'Curry, Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland, said the number may be higher.

ENAR runs the website iReport.ie, which tracks and analyses reports of alleged racist incidents in Ireland.

The group records all types of incident - ranging from threats, verbal abuse and physical assault, to racist incidents and comments online, in the media or in the workplace.

While the majority of incidents are experienced by individuals, there are also many indirect examples. In the period between July and December 2014, iReport statistics suggest that 31% of the 182 reports received concerned racism in the media or through social media. There were also six reports of offensive graffiti.

Recorded incidents included a woman who was six months pregnant being kicked in the stomach by her neighbour, after repeatedly being subjected to verbal abuse.

Another incident saw a 10-year-old Muslim girl pushed, shoved and hit by a group of young people in a playground.

One young black African was left with a serious eye injury after being assaulted by six people in Dublin city centre on a weekday evening.

Of the 400-odd total incidents reported to ENAR in 2014, 137 met the criteria for a hate crime.

Mr O'Curry observed that their NGO, which only has a relatively small presence in Ireland, "recorded three times the rate of incidents that gardaí recorded in the same period".

What are the possible explanations for any discrepancies?

Mr O'Curry suggests there is widespread under-reporting of incidents, with more than 80% opting not to turn to the gardaí.

He adds that many people have had or have heard of experiences of gardaí 'downplaying or minimising' the seriousness of racist incidents.

Image: iReport.ie

Research by a group from University of Limerick, published last year, also found that under-reporting of hate crimes is a huge problem.

The report further suggested a large variance across the country on how judges treat hate crimes.

In the latest iReport analysis, Dr Lucy Michael of the University of Ulster observes that "accounts of the impact on victims and witnesses suggest that trauma may prevent direct reporting by victims unless further support is provided".

You can find out more about iReport on their website, where you can also submit reports of racist incidents experienced by yourself or others.