Header Item Youth Justice Strategy (Continued)
 Header Item Anti-Racism Measures

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 873 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins] Of that 62%, 80% reoffend within one year. People are coming out without being rehabilitated. They are possibly gaining a greater knowledge of crime while in the prison system. I acknowledge that the number of under-25s who are in prison has fallen by a significant amount. However, the focus on rehabilitation has to be a priority. How does the Minister intend to address the high reoffending rate, particularly among younger people who reoffend when they leave prison? Will the Minister comment on any plans she has to roll out community courts? The introduction of such courts was a recommendation of the Oireachtas justice committee and the strategic review of penal policy.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I am interested to hear the Deputy's views on how to deal with young people. I am also happy to hear his support for the 25% decrease in the numbers of young people under 25 going into prison and his support for alternative initiatives. I agree with the Deputy that it is extremely important to give people a second chance by way of community diversion programmes. Good inter-agency work is being done by the Probation Service and the Prison Service. This kind of inter-agency work is key in the future. I have appointed a chairperson to begin to implement the recommendations in the report the Deputy mentioned. I intend to implement that report. The report analysed carefully how we can best help and how penal reform policy should develop in the period ahead.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Will the Minister comment on the roll-out of community courts? Is this a priority for the Government? We have seen in other jurisdictions that it is a significant positive factor in contributing to rehabilitation. People who offend up to a certain level in the community face sanction within the community rather than being committed to prison. Levels of recidivism and reoffending by people exiting the current system are high. The system is working against society. Given the considerable amount of low-level crime across communities in this country, the roll-out of community courts would be a positive development.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I thank members of the committee and the chair of the committee, Deputy David Stanton, for the work done in this area. It is clear that it is a worthwhile initiative and I hope to progress it. I would also like to see the development of family courts and I hope to introduce legislation to establish family courts. During the passage of the recent Children and Family Relationships Bill, it was clear that many Members of this House were dissatisfied with the current approach, including the hearing of family cases in the middle of many other cases, and that they wanted to see the development of family courts.

As the Deputy knows, we have just established the Court of Appeal. There is therefore quite a lot of change already under way. This is important. The Courts Service and the Chief Justice are very conscious of the kind of changes which are necessary to streamline our courts and to ensure people are not delayed in the hearing of cases. Progress is being made with the new Court of Appeal in that regard. It is clear that there are a range of issues which need ongoing attention. As priorities permit, I hope to continue to develop the reform of the courts in the way I have outlined.

Anti-Racism Measures

 7. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald if she will renew the national action plan against racism and take steps to actively and effectively tackle racism. [13287/15]

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Will the Minister renew the national action plan against racism, and will she examine this area in terms of statistics and the recording of racist incidents?

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin): Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin The Government is firmly committed to combatting and challenging any and all manifestations of racism. Ireland was one of the first states in the world to develop a national action plan against racism. When the National Action Plan against Racism 2005-2008 was launched, it was conceived as a four-year programme to run until the end of 2008. It was designed to provide strategic direction towards developing a more intercultural and inclusive society in Ireland, and was integration-driven. Under the plan, support was provided towards the development of a number of national and local strategies, including greater integration in key role model profession workplaces such as An Garda Síochána, the health service, the education system, the arts and sports sectors and within our local authorities.

The Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in my Department is the focal point for the Government's commitment on anti-racism as a key aspect of integration, diversity management and broader national social policy. The office continues to work with all the relevant sectors to further progress the integration and diversity management agenda. Many of the initiatives which were instigated through the National Action Plan against Racism 2005-2008 continue to be developed and progressed through the support and work of the office.

A review of our approach to the integration of migrants was launched last year. This review will provide the basis for a new and updated migrant integration strategy. Work on the integration strategy is ongoing and a draft will be sent to key stakeholders for their observations before the summer with a view to publication as soon as possible thereafter. I expect that the integration strategy, when developed, will include a strong anti-racism component.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Yesterday we had a presentation before the Oireachtas justice committee about the issue of migrants in Ireland. I think the name of the organisation making the presentation was the Immigration Control Platform. The views being put to our committee were not popular with the committee. I said I would guarantee that when the committee's proceedings were reported on thejournal.ie in the evening, the majority of the comments would be in support of the anti-migrant views being put forward. I was absolutely correct. They were overwhelmingly in support of the views put forward.

  This country has a real issue of latent resentment of migrants. I do not believe Ireland is a racist country, but there is a significant fear of migrants, which is ironic given our huge history of emigration. My concern is that there is no record or CSO data on racist incidents. The overwhelming majority of racist incidents are not reported because, perhaps, the victims feel there is no point or that the issue was not serious enough. There is a hell of a lot more work to be done.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I will let the Minister of State comment now.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn That is fair enough. I will reply.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I appreciate where the Deputy is coming from. Last night in the Seanad I said that we should be reasonably satisfied, without being complacent in any way, that the political system and political debate in this country have not been strangled by the issue of immigration. If one looks at what is happening in the UK and across Europe at the moment, one can see that xenophobic tendencies are getting into the mainstream and immigration is at the heart of political debate in election campaigns.

We have to tackle the issue of racism, but the issue of integration is, to my mind, closely associated with it. We have asked sports clubs to have anti-racism strategies when applying for sports capital grants. That is not enough any more. Sports clubs, and all those in society, need to find strategies to positively interact and reach out, and they need to have integration strategies. Having reactions to particular negative incidents is fine and well and important. However, it is much more challenging for Irish society or aspects of Irish society to reach out. That is why having people of different ethnic backgrounds in key role model professions is also very important.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn Everyone of us in these Houses knows that to advocate for the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and Travellers is not politically popular. If this is the case, there is a racism issue. I am not saying that every person who does not want migrants in Ireland is racist, but there clearly will be a section of people who are. There is clearly a challenge. We can go a long way in taking action to deal with these issues if we deliver on Traveller ethnicity, radically reform the direct provision system and look at the regularisation of migrants as proposed by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. The core point today is that it is time for a new action plan on racism. We need to focus on this area again. We need to win hearts and minds. It appears that most Members in these Houses advocate for these matters, but they are not popular issues. We are doing something wrong, and the best way to deal with that is to put in place concrete actions and measures to combat the views out there.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin I appreciate the Deputy's comments. Work is ongoing in respect of Traveller ethnicity, direct provision, integration and interaction. Yesterday there was positive interaction with the Deputy's committee.


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