The ‘violent behaviour of a racist mob’ in Waterford on October 25th and 26th highlights the urgent need for effective laws to combat hate crime, according to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).
ICCL Director Mark Kelly said he was in no doubt that “the vast majority of law-abiding people in Waterford will have been appalled by the criminal behaviour exhibited by a racist mob on the streets of their city”.
He added: “Unlawful violence of this nature calls for political condemnation and should also be recognised and severely punished as hate crime.”
Mr Kelly said that Irish laws on hate crime and incitement to hatred were in need of urgent updating.
“The ICCL has commissioned a major study by the Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG) at the University of Limerick (UL) into the requirements for legislative reform of Ireland’s existing laws on hate crime, looking at the shortcomings in how hate crimes, including racist and anti-Roma hate crimes, are currently prosecuted.
“The research will include recommendations for a robust and workable framework for law reform in this area.”
According to HHRG spokesperson Jennifer Schweppe: “Unlike Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales, Ireland does not currently have a workable legislative solution to tackling hate crime or hate speech. Hate crimes have a ripple effect, spreading fear beyond the direct victim and into the wider community.
“The legislature must send a clear and precise message that prejudiced or biased attacks on members of our community is unacceptable.”
According to Minister of State for Equality, New Communities and Culture Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: “(The) events in Waterford must be condemned for what they were – cowardly and racist. Waterford is a beautiful city and deserves a much better reputation.”
Meanwhile, Waterford Chamber Derek O’Byrne has backed the statement issued by the group of 10 civic leaders which confirmed that Waterford is a safe and welcoming city.
“We are aware from our engagement with the Garda Siochána that the levels of reported crimes against the person and public disorder in Waterford City Centre has declined in the last two years,” he said.
“There is confidence in the Garda Síochána here in Waterford and through our Retail, Tourism & Hospitality Committee we continue to work closely with the Gardaí in a very collaborative and positive manner.
“It is critical that Waterford’s reputation is not damaged by these recent events and we appeal to all communities and organisations in the city to fully support the Gardaí in carrying out their work.”