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Is the Minister for Justice admitting racial profiling by the Garda?

Addressing delegates at the annual conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents in Naas Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has warned Garda superintendents not to “jump to conclusions” about people on the basis of racial profiling. (1)

Reading the report in the Irish Times, what the Minister said at the conference initially sounds like a positive attempt to address the issue of racial profiling in the police force.  But before we come to this, there are some other significant points in his speech that we need take a note of.

First if all, this speech is probably the first ever admission by the state that the racial profiling exists in the police force. And it comes directly from the highest level of the government, from the Minister himself. All along, and especially last year in 2013, at the time when Roma children were taken from their families because they had a lighter complexion than other family members, anti-racism campaigners have constantly raised the issue of racial profiling as a form of state discrimination and institutional racism. Back then the state bodies and the government paid no attention to this issue and they have described the Roma children cases as a result of a series of mistakes and misunderstandings. It seems Minister Shatter has changed his mind on this and now he is acknowledging the existence of racial profiling and therefore the institutional racist practises in the force.

Governments and ministers should not be given any credits for merely pointing out the problems but not dealing with them. Minister Shatter is right. Ireland is changing. Ireland is not being 'flooded' by immigrants but it has now migrants from different parts of the world and they are here to stay. This country is now their home as well.

But the problem begins with how Mr. Shatter takes on this issue and how he describes the way forward for the police force. His remarks don’t go beyond some advisory statements and contains no hints on how the Irish state will deal with the fundamental problem of racial profiling. The whole issue of racial profiling is left to the ‘understanding’ and ‘tolerant’ attitudes of the individual police officers. We have yet to see the Irish Government taking real actions against racial profiling at various levels of public life and in various state departments.  Issuing warnings to the police officers and telling them about the dangers of racial profiling will not yield any results and the racial profiling will not be eliminated.

The reason Mr. Shatter can’t and won’t go beyond issuing warnings is to do with the fact that the racial profiling is deeply rooted in the state and he knows that it exists in various forms or shapes in the police force, the justice system, the migration policies of the state, the social welfare system etc.

Interestingly, the conference was held in Naas where Fine Gael’s Darren Scully had quitted as mayor of Naas over his comments about ‘black Africans’. In December 2012, the Fine Gael councillor had told the Kfm radio station that he found "black Africans" to be aggressive and bad mannered. He left FG, only to be welcomed back by FG in November 2013.

In 2009, the Mayor of Limerick, FG Cllr Kevin Kiely had called for the deportation of EU-nationals who have failed to secure employment since their arrival to Ireland.

These are typical examples of racial profiling, coming directly from the FG public representatives. One wonders what Mr. Shatter thinks about such attitudes within FG?

Minister Shatter is right about his analysis of the situation within the police force. But, in the absence of any real action to eliminate racial profiling, just pointing out the issue does not earn the Minister any points.

Migrants, to not to be racially profiled and discriminated, don’t have to rely on individual police officer’s understanding of the issues and his/her attitudes. The scars of racial profiling go deep and its affects can be devastating for the victims. It is now up to the government, given that the Minister admitted the existence of racial profiling, to take all necessary steps to eliminate it from all state departments and public life.

The question is; will they do it?

How can they do it?

Do they want to do it?


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