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Racist incidents reach record number amid pandemic and rise of 'far right fake news'

A report has noted that Irish “far right scammers” are adept at inciting hatred against groups and individuals.

Black Lives Matter protesters in Dublin.
Black Lives Matter protesters in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal

A RECORD NUMBER of racist incidents were reported last year as assaults and verbal attacks increased amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest report from the Irish Network Against Racism (INAR).

INAR’s 2020 report recorded 700 racist incidents, up from 530 in 2019. The system also recorded 159 criminal incidents, 51 racist assaults and a record 594 hate speech incidents.

“Contrary to what we might expect, the pandemic and associated lockdowns did not result in a quieter time for minorities in Ireland,” Oein De Bhairduin, INAR board member said.

In fact, the situation worsened for minorities, both in terms of the absolute number of online and on-the-street hate incidents, and in terms of the disproportional impacts of Covid on almost all minority groups. It’s been a bad year for everyone.

The document reveals that the biggest growth in reports relates to the online environment. The number of reports relating to online comments climbed to 594 last year, up from 174 in 2019.

The report says that the group most commonly reporting experiences of both crime and illegal discrimination is the group of Black-African, Black-Irish and Black-Other.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy are proposing to investigate racism in Irish workplaces and recruitment processes. See how you can support this project here.

INAR said that 2020 saw a “significant growth” in incitement to hatred by far right groups.

A total of 69 reports were identified as being published directly by extreme hate groups or well-known far right activists in Ireland. These included threats to a wide range of minority groups.

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Screenshot 2021-03-23 at 13.42.19 Source: INAR

The report notes that a number of Irish “far right scammers” have become adept at inciting hatred against whole groups, and sometimes named individuals, while skilfully navigating Irish law and social media platforms’ community standards.

INAR says this has contributed significantly to fake news, online toxicity and to the spread of Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

Report author Dr Lucy Michael described the response of instutions to minorities as “disappointing”.

“Minorities making complaints about repeat harassment have told us about more instances of inappropriate responses from gardaí than before” she said.

We’ve also sadly logged an increase in instances of racial profiling by gardaí.

DeBhairduin said INAR welcomes the government’s intention to bring in hate crime legislation this year, but noted: “we also need measures to tackle hate speech in the online environment.”

He added that institutional racism “and the systemic racism it enables” are still issues that need to be addressed.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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