A priest engaged in issues of migration in Ireland has lamented a reported rise in racist attacks against minority groups here.
Responding to new figures released by the Immigrant Council of Ireland this week revealing a jump to 44 incidents in January and February, over 5 in the same period last year, Fr Alan Hilliard of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants decried the attacks and said they serve no purpose in any society.
At troubled times, Fr Hilliard said “it’s convenient to blame all wrongs on minority groups. But that never works and only serves to distract from the issue of creating opportunities for all, which is what a healthy society is about.”
Fr Hilliard added that “it is worrying that across Europe now, government policies are forming around the issue of migrants” adding that,
in Ireland, one of the results of austerity has been the cutting back on funds for integration, a potential counter to racism.
“We’ve always got to remember the welcome offered to the Irish as migrants in other countries,” he said, stressing that “there are issues that should never be about budgets.”
Acknowledging that some migrants have themselves been involved in crime, Fr Hilliard stressed that “there are those who don’t represent their ‘group’ well, but the majority do”.
In its report on the spike in racist attacks, the Immigrant Council pointed out that “over half have been classed as serious criminal offences”.
Immigrant Council chief executive Denise Charlton described the figures as “shocking” and said: “It is clear that racism is a reality which individuals and families are facing on a daily basis in Ireland.”
A spokesperson for The European Network Against Racism Ireland (ENAR), which gathers information on racist incidents from anti-racist NGOs and other groups told this newspaper that “racism is an everyday reality for minority groups”, but added, on a more positive note that the vast majority of cases brought to its attention come from Irish people who have been prompted by witnessing attacks to report racism.