Written Answers. - Anti-Racism Measures.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

827 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures, if any, he has taken to actively discourage racism; the amount of funding available to voluntary groups for this purpose since coming into office; if he will fund an organisation (details supplied) who are actively involved in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1602/99]

In July 1998 I established a national consultative committee on racism and interculturalism. The Committee is a partnership of Government Departments, agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The objective of the committee is to provide an ongoing structure to develop programmes and actions aimed at developing an integrated approach against racism and to advise the Government on matters relating to racism. The committee will also endeavour to promote a more participative and intercultural society which is inclusive of persons such as travellers and minority ethnic groups. Funds of £21,000 were provided by the consultative committee to fund its programme of activities in 1998 and an allocation of £90,000 has been provided in 1999.

The approach of the consultative committee builds on and develops the initiative begun by the national co-ordinating committee of the European Year Against Racism in 1997. During that year the co-ordinating committee provided a grant of £1,000 to the voluntary group, referred to by the Deputy to fund initiatives against racism. No similar financial assistance was available in 1998. As part of its programme for 1999, the national consultative committee will encourage and support initiatives from organisations and groups, including sports groups, which are involved in appropriate activities to combat racism.

There are a number of other measures which I have taken that will have a positive impact on discouraging racism. For example, the Employment Equality Act 1998, the development of equal status legislation, and action to implement the report of the task force on the travelling community. The Employment Equality Act was enacted in June 1998 and will come into operation this year. The Act outlaws discrimination in the area of employment on nine distinct grounds including race and membership of the travelling community. Similarly, a revised Equal Status Bill is being developed by my Department and will be published this spring. The new Bill will prohibit non-workplace discrimination on a number of grounds including race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin and membership of the travelling community. In June 1998 I set up under the aegis of my Department a committee to monitor and co-ordinate the implementation of the report of the task force on the travelling community. The committee will serve as a forum for consultation on traveller issues, including social exclusion and discrimination against travellers, and will monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the task force. In addition, a sum of £300,000 has been allocated for 1999 to fund a communication programme to promote a greater understanding between travellers and the settled community in response to proposals made by the Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI).