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TD and MLA Call for All-Ireland Anti-Racist Initiatives

24 March, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Anti-Racism Alex Maskey MLA and Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD have issued a joint statement during European Week Against Racism calling for all-Ireland anti-racist initiatives including legal harmonisation and for the exercise of greater political will to end racism by all the political leaderships on the island.

Alex Maskey MLA said: "In both parts of this island we have seen an alarming and unacceptable rise in racist hate crime over the past decade. This rise in racism is blighting our society and bringing shame on our nation. It is an island-wide problem, and it needs an island-wide solution. Sinn Féin has broadly welcomed the Irish Government's so-called National Action Plan Against Racism, but this plan must be extended beyond the border to be truly national, as Irish anti-racism initiatives cannot be as effective as we need them to be if they are not coherent and coordinated across both jurisdictions.

"We also need to significantly strengthen the hate crime legislation in both jurisdictions. We propose that it should be harmonised. Indeed, the Good Friday Agreement commitments to equivalent human rights protections north and south requires this. New hate crime legislation should also address the need to fight all forms of hate crime - be it racist, sectarian or homophobic. Incitement to hatred legislation is presently under review in the 26 Counties but this has become stalled under the present Minister for Justice, for whom fighting racism is not a political priority.

"In addition, the fact that two different immigration systems operate on the island is causing all kinds of unnecessary problems and heartache. Sinn Féin also believes that the island should have one immigration policy, and this should be positive, compassionate, human rights-compliant and anti-racist." ENDS

Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

"Indeed, the Minister for Inequality is more interested in fanning the flames of racism with his anti-immigration policies, and he has shamefully exploited this issue for political gain. Earlier this week I called for the Taoiseach to remove the immigration portfolio from him, as the Minister has demonstrated by his total disregard for human rights standards that he is not fit for the job. Meanwhile other public representatives have used and even aggravated anti-Traveller sentiment locally as a cheap tactic to win settled votes. This is just as wrong and must end.

"The report of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has recently confirmed that the Irish Government is not doing enough. Indeed, many of their policies violate the Convention. But the hard reality is that no political party on this island is doing enough. Fighting racism and promoting interculturalism is the responsibility of all of us, but there is an extra onus on public representatives. I therefore call on each and every political party north and south to make fighting racism a higher political priority. If we muster the collective political will and show leadership in our own communities I believe that we can turn back the tide of racism and make a smoother transition to a truly modern, intercultural Ireland of Equals in which we can all take pride." ENDS

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