Racist crime (which is dealt with under the criminal law) is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and An Garda Síochána. OMI monitors trends only.
Racial discrimination in the provision of goods and services (dealt with under the civil law Equal Status Acts) or in employment (dealt with under the civil law Employment Equality Acts) falls within the remit of the Minister of State for Equality, Integration and Human Rights, as do anti racism measures (funding the annual Holocaust Memorial Event, developing diversity/intercultural strategies are examples). Discrimination and harassment in relation to and within employment on nine grounds, including race, religion and membership of the Traveller community, are outlawed by the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2008. Discrimination and harassment on the same grounds in the supply of goods or services, education or accommodation are prohibited under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2008.
The Statutory Equality Agencies
Two agencies are established under the equality legislation - the Equality Authority and the Equality Tribunal.
The Equality Authority's functions are to combat discrimination and promote equality of opportunity in the areas covered by the Acts, to monitor and keep the Acts under review and to make recommendations to the Minister for change. The Equality Authority's powers include those of conducting equality reviews of action plans, preparing codes of practice, conducting inquiries, providing legal assistance to and taking cases on behalf of claimants under the Acts and conducting research on equality related issues.
The Equality Authority operates a Public Information Centre providing information on the Acts to members of the public. The Authority may also take cases in its own name in certain circumstances.
The Authority also supports public and private sector organisations to develop their organisational systems to promote equality and to combat discrimination. The Equality Authority is currently operating a Workplace Diversity Initiative, funded by OMI , to support IBEC, Congress and 3 local Chambers to promote diversity in the workplace.
The Authority has also published a number of reports assessing levels of discrimination in Ireland, including on the race ground. Its most recent report on discrimination on the race ground is Discrimination in Recruitment: Evidence from a Field Experiment (ESRI, 2009) which found that job applicants with Irish names were over twice as likely to be invited to interview for jobs as candidates with identifiably non-Irish names.
The Equality Tribunal is an accessible and impartial forum to remedy unlawful discrimination. It is an independent statutory office which investigates or mediates complaints of unlawful discrimination. It operates in accordance with the principles of natural justice and its core values are impartiality, professionalism, accessibility and timeliness. The Tribunal has jurisdiction in all the areas covered by the Equality legislation, with the exception of service in licensed premises where claims of discrimination can be brought before the District Court under the intoxicating Liquor Act 2003.
The equality legislation also permits complaints to be referred in respect of discrimination on any combination of the nine discriminatory grounds. Multiple grounds are specified in approximately one fifth to one quarter of complaints referred annually to the Equality Tribunal.
Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is an independent police complaints authority established by the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It became operational in May 2007. It is responsible for receiving and dealing with all complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána. According to its Annual Report 2009, the number of complaints in which discrimination was suggested as a motive was 82 (up from 61 in 2008 and 11 in 2007). Unfortunately, the Commission's statistics do not currently distinguish between the different types of discrimination. We are in discussions with them about this.
Racist material on the internet
Racist material on the internet is a matter for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, An Garda Síochána and the Internet Service Providers Hotline (www.hotline.ie) which was launched in 1999 to provide an anonymous reporting service to members of the public who uncover illegal content on the internet. The hotline was established primarily to report incidences of Child Pornography but later became the responsible body for receiving reports of financial scams and racist material. There is an Office for Internet Safety in the Department of Justice and Law Reform but their remit is currently limited to reports re child pornography - the office was originally set up to deal with child pornorgraphy on the internet. The primary work of the Irish Hotline service is to remove illegal material on websites hosted in Ireland. If hotline.ie assesses the material to be probably illegal under Irish Law the location of the illegal material is then traced. If found to be hosted or distributed from Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the relevant ISPAI member are notified, so the material can be removed from public internet access and an investigation may be initiated. However, some material that is reported is contained on sites hosted in other jurisdictions. If reported material is found to be hosted outside Ireland, details of the illegal content are forwarded via the "INHOPE" hotline. INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines, exchanges reports of illegal on-line content to expedite the investigation of such material by the competent law enforcement body in the countries in which the material associated with each report is hosted. Where the source country does not have an INHOPE member Hotline, the report is sent to An Garda Síochána for transmission through police channels. In some countries, for example the United States, the INHOPE hotlines deal solely with reports of child pornography.
Material contained on many of the large social networking sites are hosted in the United States including content uploaded onto "Facebook". We understand that a large portion of the material contained on these US sites which are reported because they are considered offensive may not be considered illegal under Amendment 1 of the US Constitution which covers freedom of expression. In these cases, it is not possible to have the material removed
Press Council and the Broadcasting Commission
Complaints can also be made to the Press Council and the Broadcasting Commission in appropriate cases.
Legislation (criminal law) regarding racist crime is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform. Legislation (civil law) in relation to racial discrimination is a matter for the Minister for Equality, Integration and Human Rights.
A range of domestic legislation is relevant to the issue of racism, as follows:
A - Civil Law
Equality Acts (see above)
B - Criminal Law
- Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989
- Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994
- Non- Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997
- Criminal Damage Act 1991
The use of words, behaviour or the publication or distribution of material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended, or are likely, to stir up hatred are prohibited under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. Broadcasts likely to stir up hatred along with preparation and possession of material likely to stir up hatred are also prohibited under the Act. The Act offers comprehensive protection to persons having hatred incited against them on account of their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation.
The provisions of other Acts such as the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Criminal Damage Act 1991 can also be used to protect persons and their property against attack, including racist attack.