Some Dubliners Want a Stronger State Response to Racist Attacks

Fatima Chaudhry was in her living room, settling down on a recent Saturday evening with her children, when she heard a loud bang.

The noise frightened the kids, aged 13, 8, and 6. So she went to the front door to see what was going on.

When she opened it, she found that her letter box had been ripped off of her home. A group of teenage boys were running away, shouting “Paki”, she says.

“My six-year-old was crying, he was really scared,” she says. “And my eight-year-old was saying, ‘What does that word mean?’”

So far in 2017, there have been 450 incidents of hate crime reported to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland, though its iReport system. In 2016, there were 435 in total.

But there is still an inadequate response from state authorities, says Shane O’Curry, director of the European Network Against Racism Ireland.

“There is a pattern of racial harassment against families, for which there is no competent authority that will treat it seriously,” he said.

More Cases

“You just feel violated,” says Chaudhry, who is the secretary of the Muslim Sisters of Éire, a voluntary women’s group that provides aid to the homeless.

She contacted An Garda Síochána, who came out about two hours later to where she lives near Blanchardstown. They took a statement from Chaudhry, and offered to dust the letterbox for fingerprints, she says.

Some say that similar attacks have been happening in other parts of the city.

Jason Michael McCann said that his Muslim neighbours on Donore Avenue off Cork Street  had to move out of their house, due to repeated racist attacks.

“Their daughter had her hijab torn off her head. Bacon and urine were put in through their letterbox and broken window,” he said. (We were unable to confirm this.)

O’Curry says that ENAR Ireland has received reports that have included families in Dublin who have had their cars burnt out, their tires slashed, and have been intimidated from their homes, as part of sustained racial harassment.

ENAR Ireland also records what the victim has to say about the response from gardaí. “Unfortunately we have recorded garda responses which have been dismissive and minimising of what people have gone through,” he says.

Some victims – Irish citizens and those who aren’t – say that, after reporting a hate crime, they have been questioned by gardaí about their work permits or visa statuses, said O’Curry.

A Garda press officer says: “Every incident no matter how small should be reported to An Garda Síochána and will be investigated.”

The Patterns

Hate crimes often ramp up from less serious acts of abuse; as perpetrators get away with minor offences, the acts escalate and can culminate in serious violent incidents or families being burnt out of their homes, says O’Curry.

Forty percent of the incidents reported to ENAR Ireland in 2016 were part of ongoing harassment or intimidation.

“When there is a culture that questions people’s legitimacy, and anti-migrant discourse is so common and anti-social behaviour goes unchecked, the perpetrators think they have permission to take it further,” says O’Curry.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that Garda ethnic liaison officers work with minority communities at the local level, and to encourage tolerance within communities.

These liaison officers also provide assistance to victims of hate or racist crime, they said.

Meanwhile, the Garda Racial, Intercultural and Diversity Office monitors the reporting and recording of hate and racist crime on a continual basis, says the spokesperson.

Curry says the staff of that office do “heroic work”, but that they are under-resourced, and that there needs to be hate-crime legislation and a national action plan on racism.

The state doesn’t understand that in order to have an equal society, it needs to be purposefully anti-racist, said O’Curry.

The government is going to review legislation on hate crime with a view to strengthening the law, said the spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

But “there are already robust mechanisms in place to deal with criminality motivated by hate or prejudice”, he said.

An assault can be prosecuted under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, and, if motivated by hate, the court can take this into account as an aggravating factor, says the spokesperson.

From the Council

Racist attacks are “thankfully still few and far between”, said People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh. But she thinks that there has been an increase lately.

More resources are needed for integration work in the south-west part of the city, she says.

There used to be an intercultural centre in the city, with youth workers promoting integration, but the funding for this was cut, she says.

At a recent joint policing committee meeting, independent Councillor Mannix Flynn raised concerns about racism in Glovers Court on York Street, a social-housing complex run by Dublin City Council. A black resident was targeted when a weight was dropped from an upstairs balcony, narrowly missing him, Flynn said.

“The big issue is the racism that is going on down there,” he says. “There is no mechanism for reporting it.”

Sergeant Gavin O’Reilly of Pearse Street Garda station says the Gardaí are responding to the concerns of anti-social behaviour, and “street-level criminality” in Glovers Court, as raised by Flynn.

They will employ a community-policing approach, plain-clothes gardaí will be deployed, and they will liaise with the council too, Sergeant O’Reilly said.

They have appointed a detective sergeant to investigate whether there is a racial aspect to the criminality. “We take matters to that effect very seriously and we do deal with it on a regular basis,” he says.

So far the Gardaí don’t have evidence that hate crime is an issue in that complex, Sergeant O’Reilly says.

Flynn says the people living in social housing need to be organised into residents’ committees so they can combat anti-social behaviour and racism themselves. “Dublin City Council’s estate management has failed,” he says.

People who are subjected to intimidation can feel trapped, says MacVeigh of People Before Profit.

She said she is supporting a family who are living in social housing and need a transfer due to serious, sustained racist abuse. But they are struggling to get one, she says. (She won’t name the family or even the area for fear of worsening the situation.)

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said that a tenant can apply for a transfer under the “exceptional social grounds” scheme for a variety of reasons, and that this could include allegations of racist intimidation.

But to do so, they need to prove that the intimidation is happening. “To get considered for a priority transfer, you have to have police reports,” says MacVeigh. But by reporting the abuse, they risk being branded as informers, and this would bring additional risk, she says.

The council spokesperson said they don’t keep records of how many transfers or evictions resulted from racist intimidation or attacks.

That’s because racism is not contained within the definition of anti-social behaviour, as defined within Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, said the spokesperson.

The Department of Housing didn’t respond to a query as to whether this should be reviewed.

Author:

Laoise Neylon: is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at laoiseneylon@gmail.com.

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