Minority groups join forces to demand hate crime legislation

Members of the Oireachtas will hear the case for legislating for hate crime today

A newly formed group of 18 organisations representing marginalised communities in Ireland has called on the Government to urgently legislate against hate crime.

Members of the Oireachtas will hear the case for legislating for hate crime today.

As our laws currently stand we do not have a specific offence which covers acts of hatred - or incidents which target minorities.

The National Steering Group Against Hate Crime includes organisations representing minority ethnic communities, Traveller communities, LGBT+ communities, older persons, disabled communities and other groups come together for the first time ever to campaign for legislation on this issue.

Jennifer Schweppe, Hate and Hostility Research Group, University of Limerick said:

“When we legislate against hate crime, we are sending the message to society that we will not stand for this type of violent exclusion. We are also sending a message to victims and their communities that they are valued and that we consider this behaviour reprehensible."

Figures

Last year, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded:

  • 151 hate crimes in the first six months - almost one every day
  • Of them, 98 were because of someone's ethnic background or religion
  • On alleged offences linked to ageism and abuse of people with disabilities, there were 27 from January to June
  • In relation to incidents said to be motivated by gender, transphobia or homophobia, there were 26 in the first six months of this year

How do we compare?

In the UK, the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act legislates against hate crime. In 2008, an amendment was made to include "the offence of inciting hatred on the ground of sexual orientation."

In the same year, then-President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, making it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

The hate crimes measure was named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas the same year.

Fast forward to present day, and President Donald Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on record as opposing the bill, citing "constitutional concerns".

Upon his election, however, a spokesperson for Sessions said he would enforce hate crimes laws, even though he opposed them in the Senate.

National Week of Action Against Hate Crime

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality Fiona O’Loughlin TD said the Oireachtas needs to be proactive in helping to prevent the occurrence of hate crimes.

Hate crime legislation is already in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. Ireland is behind the curve on this issue as we do not have any specific hate crime laws," Deputy O'Loughlin said. "I firmly believe that such legislation is needed and the Oireachtas must act in tackling the scourge of hate crime."