Launch of Garda Síochána
Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021
Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration,
David Stanton, T.D.
on 9 October 2019 (11am)
Balbriggan Youth Service, Castlemill Education Centre, Flemington, Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
Check against delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to have been invited to launch An Garda Síochána Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021 jointly with our Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Opening and Migrant Integration Strategy
This launch is an important moment.
Ireland’s population has changed fundamentally over the past two decades. The ESRI’s latest Integration Monitor, published in November 2018, confirms that Ireland is one of the most diverse countries in the EU, with 17% of the population born outside Ireland.
The increasing diversity of Irish society places a responsibility on us to ensure that our key public services are equipped to respond to the needs of that diverse society.
The Government has developed a strategic approach to integration, within the framework of the Migrant Integration Strategy, launched in 2017.
The Migrant Integration Strategy envisages a key role for An Garda Síochána:
It commits the Gardaí to continue to implement a victim-centred policy and good investigative practices in racial and other similar crimes to encourage victims to report offences;
It also commits the Gardaí to continuing to address the under-reporting of racially motivated crime, including by developing greater contact with marginalised communities;
The Strategy also recognises the need to tackle racially motivated crime more generally, committing local authorities to tackle racist graffiti and requiring the Department of Justice and Equality to strengthen the law against hate crime; and
The Strategy also highlights the importance of policing committees being visibly representative of the communities that they serve. It requires local authorities to take action to have migrant representation on all Joint Policing Committees.
I welcome and commend An Garda Síochána’s ongoing commitment to the Migrant Integration Strategy.
I would like to acknowledge in particular the ground-breaking work that has been carried out by Superintendent Kevin Daly and formerly by Inspector Dave McInerney. They have worked tirelessly as diversity champions within the Gardaí and within local communities.
Garda Diversity and Integration Strategy
An Garda Síochána Diversity and Integration Strategy builds on that work and provides the blueprint for a strategic approach by the Gardaí to diversity and integration.
As you may know, the Strategy’s themes are focused on
protecting the community;
developing robust data systems;
upskilling members of the force, working in partnership and visibly communicating to members of the public that their complaints will be taken seriously.
These are all themes that go to the heart of what is needed – ensuring that all groups and communities in a diverse society have the confidence they are seen, valued and feel safe, whatever their ethnic or national origin or belief.
That is why I particularly welcome the focus in the Garda Diversity and Integration Strategy on developing the capacity of its people and its systems to understand the needs of diverse communities and to respond to crimes perpetrated against them. This includes the Strategy’s focus on hate crime and the clear commitment made to the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
I want to emphasise that Government is committed to ensuring that Ireland is a safe and secure place for all and there is currently a wide body of criminal law to deal with hate crime and incitement to hatred.
The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 creates offences of incitement to hatred on account of race, religion, nationality, ethnic or national origins, membership of the Traveller community or sexual orientation. The Department of Justice and Equality is currently reviewing the provisions of the Act and we will shortly be announcing a public consultation process, in order to gather views on how our legislation on criminal hate speech can be updated to operate more effectively.
Funding and other initiatives for community integration
I am conscious that there are countless people in Ireland who are committed to diversity, inclusion and integration. Daily, I encounter individuals who are reaching out and going the extra mile to welcome a neighbour who has recently arrived in Ireland or to ensure that a work colleague who belongs to a minority feels fully included. I believe passionately in the capacity of the local community to be a force for inclusion. I have taken to heart the old Irish phrase that it is in the shelter of others that we live.
That is why I established the Communities Integration Fund in 2017, which gives small grants to community groups across Ireland for concrete actions to promote integration.
I was inspired in this by the model of the Special Olympics which got local communities involved in the process of supporting the athletes who participated in the games and it is heartening to see how the Fund has taken off.
Just this year, 124 organisations have received financial support.
The types of funded projects are diverse. Some have had a specific focus on combating and preventing racist behaviour and promoting mutual respect between communities such as Sport Against Racism Ireland and LIR Anti-Racism Training & Education Programme.
However, events in the past weeks have illustrated that we cannot take community goodwill for granted. It is unfortunately the case that communities can be manipulated to stand against diversity and inclusion, to turn their back on those in need. There are those who operate in our society and on the internet who play on our fears and drive us away from one another. They can skilfully fan the fires of racism and xenophobia. That is why although our work on integration is crucial and will continue, we need to also develop our capacity to counter racism.
And so I am pleased to say that a new Anti-Racism Committee will shortly be established to help in the right against racial discrimination.
The Committee will have a mandate to examine what needs to be done by public sector bodies, by the business community and employers, as well as within local communities to challenge racism. It will have two strands:
a public sector strand to allow for more in-depth discussions of what needs to be done by public sector organisations and how it can be done,
an expert strand that will consider how to develop a clear understanding of racism, where it occurs, and what can be done to combat it, drawing on international experience.
An Garda Síochána’s contribution will be important to that process. The Committee will need to examine issues such as gathering and monitoring data, improving the reporting of hate crime and strengthening the remedies available to those who are victims of such crime.
Diversity can bring positive results for all. This is true at every level - in the workplace, in our communities and in Irish society as a whole.
Collectively, we are duty bound to ensure that we tackle racism and take a positive, proactive approach to diversity, in all of our interests.
I am delighted to see An Garda Síochána play its part – the Strategy launched today addresses not only the internal Garda environment but also the external environment.
It examines the impact of its decisions and policies on Garda personnel as well as the community it serves. It will help to ensure that An Garda Síochána reflects the communities it serves. And it will play an important part in ensuring that An Garda Síochána is clearly understood by all communities to respect and value them.
I fully endorse this Strategy and look forward with great confidence to its implementation.