A new hate crime reporting system will offer vulnerable people a safe and discreet way to speak out in their communities, according to the CEO of LBGT Ireland.
The new non-emergency online Hate Crime reporting system can be accessed via gardai.ie and will be run by the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit.
It comes amid a huge increase in reports of hate crime in Ireland this year.
Figures show there were 238 hate crimes and incidents reported between January and June this year – up from the 129 reported over the previous 12 months.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Paula Fagan, CEO of LBGT Ireland and member of the Garda National Diversity Forum said Gardaí have been making huge strides in dealing with homophobic crimes in recent years.
She warned however, that some members of the community still harbour mistrust of the force and said the new tool will encourage more people to come forward if they are targeted.
“I think some LGBTI people, depending on the circumstances, they can have additional barriers to going to the Gardaí,” she said. “Maybe if they are not out or they are getting hassle in their own community, they are reluctant, maybe, to go to the local garda station and report it.
“That is why I think the online tool that was launched yesterday is really beneficial – it can feel a lot safer; a much more discreet way of reporting to the Gardaí.”
She said the portal allows people to report hate crimes anonymously; however, each report will be vetted by the National Diversity and Integration Unit before being sent on for investigation.
“We are seeing some rise in the number of hate crimes and hate instances among people who identify as LGBT,” she said.
“It is a worrying trajectory and I think the important thing we need to convey is the impact it has on people.
“If you are targeted for who you are, it can be very difficult psychologically.”
Also on the show, Imam Ibrahim Noonan from the Maryam Mosque in County Galway said he has been threatened and attacked for years over his faith.
“I have had so much hatred towards me as an individual and as a member of the Muslim community,” he said.
“I have been threatened on social media and even threatened on the radio a few times indirectly.
“Then ultimately coming to the peak of that where our mosque was attacked two years ago and my own office was destroyed inside by what we believe to be right-wing organisations.
“It is a terrible thing to go through because you end up actually looking over your shoulder all the time – when you leave the mosque, when you walk from your home or you are walking around town.
“I have been told directly by certain people; we are watching you. We know where you live, we know where you go etc. so it is quite traumatising to a degree.”
He said people have thrown stones at his family outside their home and he has been physically attacked twice.
Imam Noonan said Gardaí have always been great in responding quickly to the attacks.
“They give all the support you can get,” he said.
“I have had nothing but positive responses from the Gardaí over the years including from the Commissioner right down so I think they are brilliant in the way they deal with this.”