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Tackling racism is about much more than banning hate symbols- Mary Lou McDonald

18 January, 2005


Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has this morning said that if the European Union is serious about addressing racism then it must "tackle individual, societal and institutional discrimination rather than focussing exclusively on hate symbols".

Ms McDonald made her comments after reports suggested that the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU was planning to begin negotiations on a law to combat racism and xenophobia within the EU.

Speaking from Brussels Ms McDonald said:

"Racial intolerance is all too prevalent within society today. In fact, a recent report by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI), has clearly shown that within the past six months there has been a worrying upsurge in the reported incidents of racist attacks in Ireland.

"The onus is on each and every one of us, but particularly on public representatives and opinion leaders to work together to find the most effective ways of tackling the rise of racism.

"Reports that suggest that the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU is to begin negotiations on a law to combat racism and xenophobia should be welcomed. However, Sinn Féin believes that that if the European Union is serious about addressing racism then it must tackle individual, societal and institutional racism and discrimination rather than focussing exclusively on hate symbols.

"If only it were a simple matter of banning a hate symbol to effectively address the root causes of racism and xenophobia. But a symbol or insignia is not capable of carrying out a racist attack, it is the person or group who wears or uses such a symbol. Therefore it is about challenging mindsets and speaking out against racism wherever we find it - whether from neighbours or colleagues or powerful policy-makers or the media. It also means ensuring that anti racism legislation is effective and providing adequate resourcing and support for ethnic minority communities and their support groups.

"On this, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the condemnation of racist attacks is not enough. We need to actively work for the removal of racism from our society. I would call upon the EU to pursue a multi-faceted approach to tackling discrimination." ENDS

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