Ireland saw rise of racist incidents in 2020 according to INAR report

As well as being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, ethnic minorities faced rising levels of racism last year.


The Irish Network Against Racism (INAR) yesterday published the 2020 findings of their racist incident reporting system. A total number of 700 racist incidents were reported, up from 530 in 2019. This included a record number of 51 racist assaults, as well as 334 incidents of hate speech.

Rates of repeat harassment, serious threats, thefts and workplace racism were slightly lower than 2019 rates. INAR say this may be because lockdown enabled some people to avoid threatening environments, but that minorities continued to be subjected to racism in essential sectors that remained open throughout the pandemic.

infographic from 2020 findings on racist incidents

In fact, despite the effects of lockdown, the overall extent and impact of racist incidents increased from previous years. Reports of hate speech from extremist groups rose significantly from 2019 numbers and the psychological impacts and social isolation resulting from racist abuse and violence more than doubled.

LGBTQ+ and Traveller rights activist Oein DeBhairduin said: “Contrary to what we might expect, the pandemic and associated lockdowns did not result in a quieter time for minorities in Ireland. 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”.

The biggest growth in reports was in the area of online racism. In the forward of the report, INAR Director Shane O’Curry described how racism on social media platforms and other online outlets, including those circulating fake news, have contributed to “the increasingly sophisticated far-right ecosphere”. The rise of far-right online discourse has affected the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups also.

Dr Lucy Michael, Research Lead at INAR and author of the report said: “The report findings are also disappointing in what they tell us about our institutions and how they respond to minorities. Minorities making complaints about repeat harassment have told us about more instances of inappropriate responses from Gardai than before” adding that “we’ve also sadly logged an increase in instances of racial profiling by Gardai.”

gathering of people holding up signs saying love not hate, calling for legislation against racist incidents

INAR have championed the #lovenothate campaign, calling on the government to enact hate crime legislation to protect those who are discriminated against based on skin colour, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability and so on. At the end of last year, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD announced that new hate crime legislation will be enacted in 2021.

“What all minorities need in order to be able to live as equals,” said DeBhairduin “is for our government and institutions to bring their weight to tackle racism and discrimination, and the conditions which foster racist and discrimination. We have the promise of Hate Crime legislation this year, and that is welcome. We also need measures to tackle hate speech in the online environment.”

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