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The National
Consultative Committee,
26 Harcourt Street,
Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 4785777
Fax: (01) 4785778

National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism

Report contents:

Preface / Introduction
Work Summary 1998-2000
> Contexts
Progress Report 1998-2001

NCCRI Progress Report 1998-2000: Section 2


The work of the NCCRI is developed within the context of increasing cultural diversity in Ireland and significant policy developments at national and European level. This section is divided as follows:

  • Cultural diversity in Ireland
  • Main developments of policy at national level.
  • Main developments in policy at European level.

Cultural diversity in Ireland

Until recent times the recognition of cultural diversity and the need to address racism have not been key priorities in shaping public policy. The Traveller community, an indigenous Irish minority ethnic group, has an estimated 22,000 people in the South and 1,300 in the North. The Chinese community numbers 8,000 in the North. The North and South both have long established Jewish communities and growing Islamic and Asian communities. In the South there are now refugees and asylum seekers from over 100 countries, including Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, Romania, Nigeria, Algeria, Congo, Sudan, Somalia and from ethnic groups that transcend national boundaries such as the Roma and the Kurds.

In both the North and South, there are now more visible populations of Black Irish and other EU and non-EU citizens who are living in Ireland, who experience racism on the basis of skin colour and ethnic origin.

A further factor contributing to increased awareness about cultural diversity in Ireland is increased inward migration. In response to rapid economic growth in Ireland, an increasing number of migrant workers are coming to Ireland to meet skills and labour shortages. Over 20,000 work permits and visas issued in Ireland in 2000, twice the number of people who applied for asylum.

The government has estimated that the economy will need many thousands of migrant workers over the next few years if economic growth is to be sustained. Many of these will be returning Irish emigrants and others will drawn from non EU countries in eastern Europe, the far east and from India and Pakistan.

Forms of Racism in Ireland

The NCCRI has identified a number of different forms of racism in the Irish context, including:

  • Racism experienced by Travellers on the basis of their distinct ethnic and nomadic identity, and
  • Racism experienced by refugees and asylum seekers
  • Racism experienced by Travellers on the basis of their distinct ethnic and nomadic identity, and
  • Racism experienced by Black and minority ethnic groups on the basis of their skin colour and ethnic identity.
  • The racism and potential exploitation of migrant workers
  • The particular forms of racism experienced by women from minority ethnic groups.
  • The potential for institutional forms of racism.

Main developments in policy at national level

A wide range of policies and approaches to address racism are beginning to emerge at national, EU and international levels. This section outlines the main developments in recent policy that have the potential to impact on racism.

The main developments to address racism in Ireland include:

  • The enactment of equality legislation including the Employment Equality Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000) which prohibits discrimination on a range of grounds including ‘race’, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin or membership of the Traveller community in the employment and non-employment areas respectively.
  • The development of an equality infrastructure to oversee and implement the equality legislation including the establishment of the Equality Authority and the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations (1999 to present).
  • The establishment and development of the NCCRI, which is outlined in this progress report (1998 to present).
  • Government ratification of UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (2001)
  • Report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community and the establishment of monitoring committees to oversee its implementation (1995 to present).
  • Recent initiatives by An Garda Síochána to promote human rights and to meet the challenges of policing in an intercultural society (1999 to present)
  • Emerging commitments to promote equality and to accommodate anti racism strategies through the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, the National Development Plan, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and the Strategic Management Initiative (1997 to present).
  • The forthcoming establishment of a Human Rights Commission the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Irish law arising out of the Belfast Agreement (2000).
  • The emergence of interculturalism and equality as core values in adult and further education policy and commitments in the recently reviewed curriculum at primary and secondary level.
  • Policy on the Integration of Refugees arising from the Governments Report: Integration: A two way process, including an anti racism public awareness programme.

Recent EU and international developments.

The following are some of the key development at EU and international level, which have the potential to impact on racism.

  • The EU has enacted a Directive on Racism that will place an onus on member states to effect legislation to outlaw discrimination in the workplace and services that will be similar in some ways to Ireland’s equality legislation. An EU programme of action has been developed to prepare member states for the Directive.
  • The EU has also established a monitoring centre on racism (EUMC) based in Vienna that has potential to bring cohesion to EU-wide strategies to address racism. The Council of Europe monitors developments in racism through the European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
  • At EU level there is also increasing concern to harmonise immigration and asylum policy. A key challenge to the EU and member states will be to ensure that such harmonisation meets accepted European and international standards on human rights.
  • The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a coalition of NGOs from member states throughout the EU was established with support from the Commission as one of the outcomes of the European Year Against Racism (1997). ENAR has been active in campaigns for EU policies on racism.
  • At an international level, the forthcoming World Conference on Racism being organised by the United Nations indicates the concern at the levels of racism throughout the world and its potential to undermine key standards of human rights and to create instability within and between countries. The Conference should conclude with intergovernmental agreement on a Declaration and Programme of Action.

The Role of Civil Society in Addressing Racism

It is also clear from this report that civil society, in particular the community and voluntary sector and other social partner organisations, have contributed significantly to the emergence of strategies to address racism at European and national level.

The leadership from civil society in addressing racism has been a consistent feature of policy development across Europe and within Ireland. The role of NGO’s has also been recognised at a global level and is a key feature of the World Conference on Racism. The role of NGO’s can include:

  • Campaigning and lobbying for stronger government action to address racism.
  • Participating in partnership initiatives to address racism.
  • Facilitating the participation of minority ethnic groups in measures to address racism.
  • Raising public awareness.
  • Highlighting the experience of groups that experience racism.


There is increased recognition of cultural diversity in Ireland. This has in part stemmed from recognition of the rights of existing minority ethnic groups, including Travellers, the increase in the numbers of people seeking asylum and more recently the increase in the numbers of migrant workers who are being encouraged to come to Ireland to meet skill and labour shortages.

This section has outlined a wide range of policies being developed at national and European level to address racism. The purpose of this review has not been to engender a sense of complacency, but to identify a bedrock of policies that can be built upon and enhanced in the coming months and years.

Policies to address racism cannot be seen in isolation to other policy developments that have the potential to impact on minority ethnic groups. Many of these policies will be complementary, particularly if they seek to acknowledge the needs of minority ethnic groups and build in an anti racism and intercultural dimension.

However there may also be tension between different public policy priorities in relation to contentious issues such as refugee and asylum policy and immigration policy. Such related policy areas need to be proofed to ensure that they are consistent with overall policy to address racism and the promotion of human rights and equality which are the cornerstones of an inclusive and intercultural society.

Report contents:

Preface / Introduction
Work Summary 1998-2000
> Contexts
Progress Report 1998-2001

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