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Relating Real Experiences of Racism and Sectarianism in Donegal Presented by Francine Blaché-Breen From Facilitated Workshops.

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Presentation on theme: "Relating Real Experiences of Racism and Sectarianism in Donegal Presented by Francine Blaché-Breen From Facilitated Workshops."— Presentation transcript:

1 Relating Real Experiences of Racism and Sectarianism in Donegal Presented by Francine Blaché-Breen From Facilitated Workshops

2 Sectarianism “Narrow-minded beliefs that lead to prejudice, discrimination, malice and ill-will towards members, or presumed members, of a religious denomination.” Although sectarianism is rooted in religion it is often linked to cultural, historical and political differences. It is frequently argued that in recent years this type of intolerance of others has little link with history or association with religion itself.

3 Racism “Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on ‘race’, colour, decent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.

4 Experiences of Sectarianism Membership of the ‘Majority religious community’ presumed when dealing with officialdom; Protestant communities perceived as ‘not prepared to integrate’ but it is more comfortable to avoid sectarian behaviour; There is a long history of sectarianism within institutions – employment discrimination, refusal of planning applications cited as long running issues;

5 Experiences of Sectarianism Perception that the Educational system is focused on the majority population – history curriculum and cultural recognition especially; There is acknowledgement that some change has occurred in relation to religious education in mixed schools; Myths about ‘Protestant’ behaviours abound; Often, no thought given to the existence of minority religious populations even existing i.e. poor consultation on public monuments and art;

6 Experiences of Sectarianism There is no encouragement for the majority population to understand various Protestant denominations; Perception that all are lumped into one homogenous ‘Protestant’ grouping; Perception that sectarianism assumed to be about LOL or churches – impact for individuals not perceived as sectarian; Sectarianism=Protestant=Bigot;

7 Experiences of Sectarianism Feeling that officialdom thinks ‘We’ve done our bit’ for Protestants – ‘time to move on now’ – tick box exercise; Perception that when members of the majority religious population defend the minority, they get a backlash from their own – cannot be seen to defend the minority; There seems to be a perception that all Protestants are rich farmers – many are working class. Acknowledgement that there is a need for the Protestant communities to help breakdown fears and assumptions;

8 Experiences of Sectarianism Sectarian incidents are being reported to the Gardai – both individual and organisational, but when reported, refusal by Gardai to record as sectarian; People have stopped reporting; Responsibility for incident is placed on the individual reporting not on the perpetrator – What did you do to illicit such a response? Cannot see rationale for reporting to an ‘unofficial’ system if the official one does nothing; Reporting scheme perceived as little use to the individual;

9 Experiences of Sectarianism What will happen to information reported to the scheme? How confidential? What possible backlash? No confidence in scheme; Being used as a way to collect data, but feeling that nothing will go any further; There has been no feedback to the public since the launch of the scheme – what is happening? Extremely visible hate crime recognition in Northern Ireland – Why not here?

10 Experiences of Racism Racist name calling in housing estates; Stone throwing; Vandalism of vehicles and homes; They too related that incidents were reported to the Gardai, but could not be reported as racist; Seen as ‘anti-social behaviour’ even though racist elements existed;

11 Experiences of Racism Other ‘everyday’ incidents were cited: Clerk impatience with accented English; Poor employment conditions including: no employment contracts issued, attempts by employers to confiscate passports, not being placed on official payroll;

12 Experiences of Racism Vehicle stops by Gardai when no violation has occurred; Numerous stops by Gardai when driving a ‘high end’ vehicle; Previously, immigration stops when travelling by public transportation;

13 Experiences of Racism The participant, a man of African descent, related that upon disembarking from a bus and walking down the street, a Garda car pulled along side him and asked him to get into the car. After some discussion, deciding he did not wish to make a scene, the participant got into the car. He was taken to the Garda station where he was questioned and strip searched by what he believed to be the Drug Squad. They found no evidence of criminal activity on his person. Understandably visibly upset, he was asked by a superior officer if he wished to make a complaint. He felt this was acknowledgement that what had taken place was indeed an unwarranted action by the Gardai. He did not make an official complaint.

14 Experiences of Racism Following a discussion with a member of the Traveller community, the participant, a man of African descent, was stopped in his car that also contained his two children by an unmarked Garda car. He was asked by the officers if he was aware that the man he had been talking to was a member of the Traveller community. He replied “Yes”. He related what the conversation had been about. He was searched. Following confirmation by radio of this identity, he expressed his annoyance with being stopped, gave the officers his keys, told them they were free to search his car, but he was taking his children home and proceeded to leave on foot. After some discussion, the officers then gave him his keys back and allowed him to leave.

15 Experiences of Racism Participants related concern that it appeared that for some, membership of an ethnic minority group equalled criminality in itself – that to be a black man was to be a drug dealer.

16 Experiences of Racism In general, the following perceptions were recorded: That many think that ethnic minorities should remain ‘manual labourers’; If a member of an ethnic minority group seeks a job other than a manual one, “they are taking jobs away from Irish people”; That ethnic minorities are now expected to leave as the economy worsens even though they have made homes here;

17 Experiences of Racism It was ok for ethnic minorities to be here when times were good, but ‘now leave’ as though you don’t want the same things out of life as others’; Concern that as their children mature, they will be unable to afford huge fees for third level education as ‘foreign students’ even though they will have lived most of their lives here – that this will lead to generations not being able to succeed here – effectively ghettoised.

18 Conclusions That there is a need to understand the legislation and guidelines in which the Garda work; That we examine what we can learn from the experience of NI in making Hate Crime and Hate Incidents visible; That we need to look at how the sector can work in collaboration with institutions to lobby for change; That, particularly in relation to sectarianism, we in this region must be at the forefront in lobbying for change, if indeed change is to occur;

19 Conclusions That there is a need to examine how we ensure that ‘good ideas’ such as the Racist & Sectarian Incident Reporting Scheme are relevant for the people who report; and That there is a need to work to integrate such ‘good ideas’ into all levels and across departments of local structures and institutions.


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