Racism in Ireland Today:

What are the issues?
Understanding racism bookletTake action

the state of racism in ireland

what is racism?

INAR understands racism as: Any action, practice, policy, law, speech, or incident which has the effect (whether intentional or not) of undermining anyone’s enjoyment of their human rights, based on their actual or perceived ethnic or national origin or background, where that background is that of a marginalised or historically subordinated group. Racism is about power relations, and is rooted in a history of conquest , domination and dehumanisation. Racism in Ireland presents itself in many forms, some of which are influenced by global racism, some more specific to an Irish context.

racism in ireland: key dimensions

Anti-Black Racism

Anti-Black racism refers to racism or discrimination experienced by people because they are, or are perceived to be, black or African or from a black or African background, this presents itself in many forms. Irish anti-black racism has its roots in the global legacies of colonialism and slavery, as evidenced in the language and stereotypes used. It can manifest as individual acts of racism such as the use of racist epithets, or in a series of so-called “microaggressions” like constantly being asked “where are you really from?”. It is also manifest in the widespread structural discrimination, for example in the jobs market , as discrimination in a shop or as physical racist assaults. All of these have a corrosive effect on a person’s physical and mental well being and safety, as well as of their family.

See our special report Afrophobia in Ireland: Racism against people of African descent.

    anti-traveller racism

     Anti-Traveller racism has been experienced by Travellers throughout the history of the state. Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey introduced the ‘Commission on Itinerancy’ report in 1963 in which he advanced a “final solution” to the “itinerancy problem”, just 18 years after the Holocaust, advocating a continuation of the policy of forced sedentarism which would lead to the disappearance of Travellers. The 2017 recognition of Traveller ethnicity by the State was welcomed, but the failure by the state to address the continued criminalisation of nomadism, racial profiling, and discrimination in housing (Traveller Homes Matter), health and education provision for Travellers takes a huge toll on the community’s health and life outcomes. Racial epithets, stereotypes and language used to describe Travellers is often dehumanising. Dr. Sindy Joyce’s work on the historic discrimination faced by Travellers is essential reading. Members of the community such as Martin Warde have long highlighted the institutional racism that Travellers face and how this reinforces segregation and superiority complexes interactions. 

      anti-ROMA RACISM

      Anti-Roma Racism, sometimes also referred to as anti-gipsyism or Romaphobia, refers to the racism or discrimination experienced by people because they are or are perceived to be Roma, “Gypsies” [a pejorative term] or from a Roma or “Gypsy” background. Roma people continue to be targeted for explicit discrimination in all areas of Irish life and experience similar institutional discrimination in housing and access to public services to Travellers. Anti-Traveller and anti-Roma prejudice are rooted in a broader anti-nomadism. 


      Anti-Muslim racism or Islamophobia has lead to the stigmitisation and exclusion of Muslims or those who are perceived to be Muslim, in all areas of life. The unchallenged perpetuation of discriminatory myths and stereotypes about Muslims online, in traditional media, and by elected representatives cannot be viewed separately from the upward trend of physical assaults recorded through iReport in the first quarter of 2020. These have included Muslim women physically attacked for wearing a Hijab. The absence of adherence to responsible reporting norms in the media, or of measures to curb hate speech in Ireland allows this to go unchallenged. The right to free speech should not include the right to infringe upon the human rights of others by putting them in harm’s way. Dr James Carr’s chapter on Ireland, using iReport.ie data, in the European Islamophobia Report can be read here. EUROPEAN ISLAMOPHOBIA REPORT. Many features of Islamophobia are shared with antisemitism. The massacre of 51 worshippers in Christchurch in March 2019 was carried out by a white supremacist informed by islamophobic and antisemitic ideas.

      anti-jewish racism (Antisemitism)

      Anti-Jewish racism or Antisemitism is the discrimination faced by Jews or those who are perceived to be Jewish. The prevalence of antisemitic stereotypes and myths is a cause of grave concern Jacob Woolf – #Antisemitism. This includes conspiracy theories which link Jews to an orchestrated so-called “population replacement”, such as the George Soros conspiracy theory, which has resulted in acts of antisemitic right-wing violence such as the massacre of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 (Pittsburgh shooting extends wave of conspiracy-minded rightwing violence). Antisemitism in Ireland derives much from historical Catholic and Christian antisemitism. Former Defence Minister, Olver J Flanagan used his Dail maiden speech on 9 July 1943, to urge the government to emulate the Nazis and “rout the Jews out of this country. where the bees are there is honey, and where the Jews are there is money”. Oliver J Flanagan was Ireland’s longest-standing TD. Contemporary instances of antisemitic racism, including the defacing of a Dublin synagogue with a swastika in January 2019, have been reported to INAR via iReport.

      anti-migrant racism (xenophobia)

      Anti-Migrant racism or xenophobia is prevalent in discussions on State provisions. The Irish government has failed to show leadership in the EU so-called “migrant crisis”, and voted against moves to enhance rescue provisions in the Mediterranean, making us complicit in the deaths of thousands of black and brown-skinned people at our borders. The failure of the State to provide housing and healthcare or to tackle unemployment, low-paid employment and unfair labour conditions are often blamed on migrants. This is despite the fact that migrants disproportionately experience homelessness, lack of access to healthcare, and unfair working conditions. The stark extent of this inequality is highlighted in last week’s ESRI study based on 2016 census data; “The vast majority of countries have higher rates of unemployment than those for the Irish-born population. Controlling for the age, gender, ethnicity and educational composition of these migrants does not eliminate this effect”

      See: Origin and integration: a study of migrants in the 2016 Irish Census.

      Gendered racism

      Hostility and discrimination against minorities in Ireland often takes on specific gendered dimensions. Migrant women, Traveller women, Black women and Muslim women are often singled out for specific hostility. The iReport system has logged incidents of particular scorn directed at pregnant women and women with children, with dehumanising references to ‘breeding’, and echoes of the stereotypes circulating during the 2004 Citizenship Referendum. Dr Lucy Michael discusses the long-lasting effect of these stereotypes in the report on Afrophobia in Ireland: Racism against people of African descent’.

        Racism in Ireland: main areas of concern

        direct provision

        Brought in as a ‘temporary emergency measure’ to accommodate those seeking asylum in 1999. The system is unregulated, inconsistent in standards and practices, and largely contracted to the private sector. Residents have highlighted safety concerns including sexual exploitation, abuse, overcrowding, lack of privacy, lack of child-friendly facilities and malnutrition. LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable, asylum seekers have reported that they are asked to prove their sexual orientation to the International Protection Office. INAR believes the Direct Provision system is not fit for purpose and calls on the state for its closure and replacement with a human asylum system which focuses on the integration of those seeking asylum into society Executive Summary of the CERD Alternative Civil Society Report for Ireland 2019. The system has been highlighted and continuously protested by affected-led groups such as Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland: MASI.

          structural racism

          In the labour market, structural racism has led to both the exclusion and endangerment of minority ethnic people, from and within society respectively Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty – The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. It is structural racism that the unemployment rate for black immigrants is 19% higher than for white Irish people Ethnicity and Nationality in the Irish Labour Market. Last week’s ESRI report highlights the structural inequality in the labour market. When other factors are accounted for, non-EU migrants, especially those of African descent, are far more likely to experience unemployment compared to Irish citizens, while those who have been granted international protection face extremely poor labour market outcomes due to prolonged time spent in Direct Provision and experiences of trauma Origin and integration: a study of migrants in the 2016 Irish Census. People of African descent are discriminated against in education and employment on a daily basis, INAR echoes the calls from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to take effective measures to address discrimination against people of African descent in the education and employment sectors (see: Ireland Homepage). The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the endangerment of people in society due to structural racism, as outbreaks of the virus within meat factories have disproportionately affected low-paid migrant workers, as well as making people in Direct Provision and on Traveller halting sites more vulnerable.

          In terms of housing, migrants and minority ethnic people experience disproportionate inequality. The combined forced eviction of Travellers and refusal to utilise Traveller accommodation budgets by local authorities, which has been criticised in the 2020 report by CERD is a form of structural racism. The lack of access to housing, along with appropriate access to education and healthcare, can be directly linked to the disproportionate life expectancy of Travellers (for Traveller men it is more than 15 years lower than men in the general population) and the disproportionate suicide rate amongst Travellers, which accounts for 11% of Traveller deaths

          See: Selected Key Findings and Recommendations from the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study – Our Geels 2010.

            the need for criminal justice reform

            Via iReport.ie, INAR continues to receive numerous reports of racial profiling by Gardaí, including the racial profiling of ethnic minority Irish citizens carrying Irish passports by Gardaí at Dublin Airport (see: Racism and Policing). There is currently no legislation prohibiting racial profiling by An Garda Síochana, nor is there any definitive mechanism by which someone can report it. All the while, low rates of trust in An Garda Síochána remain prevalent.

            In addition to a lack of legislation on racial profiling, Ireland is almost alone in Europe in its lack of hate crime legislation (see: Love Not Hate Campaign for Hate Crime Legislation). Hate crime has been recorded by INAR via iReport.ie, but the lack of state legislation on the issue has led to the racist motivation for crimes committed not being systematically considered in criminal proceedings. These criminal proceedings range from harassment, including cases for repeated harassment, to racist assaults and the arson attacks on contracted Direct Provision sites in 2018 and 2019.

            the need for leadership and action in the fight against racism

            INAR also calls for a renewed and inclusive National Action Plan Against Racism (NAPAR), which the State allowed to expire in 2008, and an independent body to oversee State action in this area. This renewed NAPAR must be compliant with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which was adopted at the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism and Discrimination and ratified by Ireland. (See: National Action Plans Against Racism: Lessons for effective national anti-racism policies) 

            Ireland has an additional responsibility to lead on the regulation of online hate speech and need to curb the facilitation of the far-right by social media platforms.  We have a particular responsibility because our generous tax regime means we are hosts to the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) headquarters of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google.

            See: INAR’s submission on the Review of the 199 Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act.

            Racism has long been a feature of Irish society, as the experience of Travellers and other minorities attests. The evidence from minorities’ direct experience logged with the iReport.ie system shows that racism is an ongoing and everyday experience for all minorities in multiple dimensions of life. INAR supports minorities to have their experiences heard, in order to combat racism and racism denial. We support wide-sweeping legislative, policy and statutory body reforms, such as hate crime legislation, and our call for a National Action Plan Against Racism, in Irish society because these can help create spaces where it is easier for minorities to advocate and participate in decision making. But even the most far-reaching reforms by themselves are not a panacea for racism. People must drive the necessary change in society at every level. This means that for racism to be challenged, ordinary people need to proactively engage in anti-racist activism. This can mean joining an activist group. It can also mean challenging racism in their everyday lives. It can mean supporting minorities to challenge racism and discrimination. Or it can mean bringing the fight against racism into other struggles for equality, inclusion and human dignity. Racism, by its very nature, affects minorities most, but it damages all of society so it is in all of our interests to combat it, all the time.

              Understanding Racism in Ireland:
              Other Resources

              Reporting racism in Ireland

              Data on Racism in Ireland

              Access iReport.ie data on Racism in Ireland since 2013

              Reporting racism in Ireland

              Combat Racism in Ireland

              10 things you can do to combat racism in Ireland


              understanding racism:

              DEfining racism in an irish context

              Know your rights: REPORT RACISM

              Regardless of your background, you have the right to equal treatment at work, equal access to services and the delivery of these services free from discrimination, racism or prejudice based on your nationality, ethnic background, religion, membership of the Traveller community or skin colour.

              Whether you yourself have experienced racism, witnessed it happening to someone else or came across it online, it is important to take action, report it and make a formal complaint, even in cases where taking a legal route may prove challenging.

              If you believe the content or behaviour you are reporting is prohibited in Ireland, please contact relevant authorities listed in Responding to Racism Guide, so they can accurately assess the content or behaviour for possible violations of law.

              If you encounter an incident which constitutes a serious crime, or if you believe there is a serious and immediate threat to someone’s life or wellbeing, we strongly encourage you to report these immediately to An Garda Síochána.

              We encourage the reporting of ALL types of racist incidents to iReport.ie and relevant bodies and we hope that this guide will make this process easier and clearer for you.



              If you are affected by racism either as a victim or as a witness, you can report all racist incidents it to the iReport.ie.

              iReport.ie Racist Incident Reporting System, INAR’s flagship project, was launched in July 2013. It allows individuals, communities, and organisations to confidentially report racism in Ireland from any online device.