Supporting Inclusion and Combating Racism in Ireland: Statements

With the consent of the House, I wish to indicate my intention to share time with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton.

Two weeks ago, I spoke of the horror I felt, and the horror we all felt, at the tragic death of the late George Floyd. Since then, we have seen a global outpouring of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement and an increasing and most welcome focus on the vile problems of racism and discrimination. While it may be that this moment was prompted by recent events in one state, the reality is that racism and racial discrimination are not unique to any one country or continent. Racism is insidious. It is present to some degree in every society, including Ireland. Recognising this terrible reality is the first step in combating it. We need to face up to the fact that racism does occur in Ireland. We need to understand better how prevalent it is and what its impacts are, and we need to generate effective strategies for tackling it. The Minister of State and I will speak this morning about some of the extensive efforts being made to tackle racism in Ireland and I will deal with the criminal justice sector.

The sad fact is that a small minority of persons in Ireland subject others to abuse or attack due to their own prejudice or intolerance. I wholly and unreservedly condemn such actions for which there is really no excuse. The mission of the Department is delivery of a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland. In our policies and initiatives we strive to deliver on this mission statement. As Deputies know, there is existing law in the area of hate crime and hate speech. With regard to sentencing for criminal offences, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 states that a hate motive may be considered by a court to be an aggravating factor resulting in a stronger penalty. It has been clear for some time this has not been sufficient to deter or sufficiently respond to a crime in which the victim is targeted. Recognising that this legislation is complex and sensitive, the Department has carried out comparative research on the effectiveness of various approaches to hate crime legislation in various jurisdictions. It is not enough just to have legislation on the Statute Book, it is essential that such legislation is effective.

If we are to ensure that Ireland is fully inclusive, it is important that the criminal justice system reflects and represents all of society. The Garda Síochána is pivotal in this context. In recent years, Garda recruitment campaigns have made significant efforts to attract candidates from minority communities, including through the publication of videos and materials in multiple languages. The Garda Commissioner has approved changes to the Garda uniform to allow the wearing of hijabs or turbans in order to ensure that the uniform does not act as a barrier to entry. These developments are bearing fruit.

For example, in 2019 and to date in 2020, almost 67 persons of 19 different nationalities born outside the State have applied to become members of An Garda Síochána. In addition to Garda members who are UK or EU citizens, we now have members who are nationals of Brazil, China, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia and South Africa, among others.

A Garda diversity and integration strategy has also been adopted. This is important for organisational and operational reasons. The strategy reflects a commitment to further diversity in the Garda workforce. It contains a working definition of hate crime to ensure that gardaí are alert and in a position to appropriately record incidents of hate crime. It commits to a proactive and respectful engagement with all members of society, including minority groups. These undertakings are underpinned by the Garda human rights strategy, the code of ethics and the wider reform process under way as a result of the work of the Commission on the Future of Policing. Effective criminal legislation will be the key in deterring and addressing hate-motivated crime and a renewed Garda Síochána will continue to benefit from ever-increasing diversity. Engaging in all communities will be a powerful force for integration and respect.

Addressing prejudice and discrimination is a mission for all of us. I am confident that I am not alone in being profoundly moved by the poem "You don't get to be racist and Irish" recently composed by the singer Imelda May. She reminds us of the piercing truth that our history as a people, during which we have experienced the torment of discrimination, exclusion and intolerance, means that we cannot be blind to the same terrible wrong being done to others. Our pride in our heritage and history must extend to taking pride in our fairness, tolerance and inclusivity.

The Minister has already made it clear that the Government condemns all forms of racism in our society. I welcome the opportunity to address the House on this very important issue.

A recent key development in the fight against racism has been the formation of the anti-racism committee, which has a mandate to develop a new anti-racism strategy and action plan for recommendation to the Government. The purpose of the committee is to develop an understanding of the nature and prevalence of racism in Ireland, including anti-Traveller racism, and to work towards achieving a social consensus on actions required by State and non-State actors. Chaired by Professor Caroline Fennell of University College Cork, it will review current evidence and practice and make recommendations to the Government on how best to strengthen its approach to tackling racism in all its forms. The committee will consult stakeholders from a broad range of sectors. It will hold its first meeting tomorrow and will provide a report to Government within three months, with a full report due at the end of one year.

Central to our efforts to improve integration is the migrant integration strategy, which I launched and have chaired since 2017 and which runs until the end of this year. It presents the vision of an inclusive society where all can fully participate and where diversity is valued. Racism in all its forms is a barrier to that vision being realised. Our work to date implementing this strategy and monitoring its progress together with our NGO partners in the strategy committee has helped to build our understanding of where more effort is required and what we need to do to ensure that all members of our society feel that they belong and are valued.

Racism is not experienced by migrants alone. Travellers, Roma and other ethnic minorities encounter racism and prejudice in their daily lives. The Government has worked actively to promote opportunities for Travellers and to recognise their rights. The landmark development has been the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority. Those Members who were present on the night of 1 March 2017, when the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, made a statement recognising Travellers as an ethnic minority will agree that it was a truly memorable event, with all political parties united in support of the his statement. Recognition of Traveller ethnicity has been a symbolic step forward in the State's acknowledgement of the uniqueness of Traveller culture and identity and it generates mutual understanding and respect between Traveller and non-Traveller communities.

Recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority did not remove overnight all the obstacles that have prevented them from experiencing full equality within Irish society. However, it has created a strong platform of respectful dialogue and a pathway towards equality for Travellers. It also demonstrates the commitment of Government towards recognising the contribution that Travellers have made to society and culture in Ireland. The National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 suggests specific actions in combating discrimination and ensuring equality for Travellers, as well as actions relating to celebrating and promoting the richness of Traveller culture, which is an important part of our country's heritage.

Last December, I reported to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was held in Geneva, on actions that Ireland has taken since 2011 to promote equality and to combat racial discrimination, including measures to strengthen the human rights infrastructure so that it can challenge racism more effectively. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 introduced the equality and human rights positive duty, providing structural underpinning for action by public bodies on equality, human rights and the combatting of discrimination, including racism. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, has been given a range of powers to challenge discrimination, including against ethnic minorities, and to seek legal redress for persons experiencing discrimination. One of its functions under the Act is to encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

I believe in the power of communities when it comes to bringing about lasting change. In 2017, I launched the communities integration fund, which supports local initiatives by migrant and non-migrant groups to promote integration and, most importantly, to allow people to get to know each other. Some 124 organisations received funding in 2019 and projects are being funded which are explicitly intended to challenge racism at grassroots level. The 2020 call for applications will be officially launched by the Department this Friday. I have also sought to strengthen the participation of communities in welcoming refugees to Ireland and was inspired by the community sponsorship model developed in Canada, whereby local communities sponsor refugee families to settle in their towns and villages. I saw first-hand when I visited similar projects in the UK how the integration outcomes were improved for refugees when the communities and neighbours took part in the resettlement process. Following a successful pilot programme in Meath and Cork, I formally launched refugee community sponsorship in Ireland in November of last year.

I would like to remind Deputies that the majority of Irish society has been remarkably open and welcoming to migrants from across the world. Our diversity is our wealth. Some 17% of our population were born outside of Ireland and many have been given the opportunity to acquire Irish citizenship. Ireland is one of the 13 EU member states that provide citizenship if the person has been resident for five years and one of the 16 member states permitting dual citizenship. Approximately 120,000 people have received Irish citizenship since 2011, which represents more than 2.5% of the total Irish population and our country is better and richer as a consequence.

I am sharing time with Deputies Niall Collins and Christopher O'Sullivan. The vast majority of Irish people detest racism because they recognise that at its core, it has the persecution of and discrimination against certain groups of people because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity or their nationality. It is important to point out that the Irish people are in a good position to speak about racism because for centuries we were the object of persecution and discrimination. It is important that we recall that for the purpose of seeing how we dealt with it and how we got to a stage where the persons who previously persecuted us are our friends. If one looks back on Irish history to the Tudor conquest in the 16th century, one can see that was a form of racist ethnic cleansing. If one looks at what happened with the Cromwellian campaign during the English Civil War, one sees another example of people being targeted and persecuted because of their ethnicity and nationality, namely Irish.

We can also learn from international history that the big bodies of work that institutionalised racism were both colonialism and imperialism. If one looks at places with the worst examples of racism, one sees that at the back of them there was a colonial power exerting imperial influence. If one looks at what happened to the people of Congo when King Leopold II of Belgium had influence over that territory, one can see the horrific consequences of such colonialism. We also need to recognise that in other parts of the world, the reason there are racism problems today is the impact of history on those societies. It may be said that imperialism did not play as significant a part in the history of the United States as it did in European and African countries, but the core of the problem that exists in the United States today is the history of slavery, segregation and institutional racism that existed there both prior to and after the American Civil War. It is deeply regrettable that some 170 years after the American Civil War, issues concerning racism have still not been adequately dealt with.

We also need to recognise that the two most powerful influences in our time, namely globalisation and social media, play a big role in promoting racism and also in standing up to racism. One of the benefits of globalisation and social media is that people are outraged when they see a form of social injustice, not just in their city or country but anywhere in the world. That is why so many Irish people went out to march against the persecution of black Americans by certain police officers, as was evidenced in the brutal killing of Mr. Floyd.

That is a positive influence of globalisation and social media, and social media contribute in the sending out of that message. Similarly, however, globalisation and social media can have a very negative impact because they allow racists - and they exist - to spread their hate online and to get into the minds of impressionable young people. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of social media is that people are now compartmentalised into different groups, and algorithms tell them what they should read after reading a certain article. This brings them further and further into more unacceptable and racist narratives. That is why we have to be so extremely careful that our young people are given a counter-narrative.

The State has an important role to play in combating racism. Racism exists in Ireland. I know that. We all know that. I know a young mixed-race couple who are subjected to vicious racism, not all the time but frequently, when they go out socialising. As the legislative body of this country, we have to ensure we put in place laws to stand up to racism. However, it is more than laws that are required to defeat racism; it is a culture. We need to recognise that racism is socially completely unacceptable, and once we do that we will defeat it.

I join the previous speakers in condemning all forms of racism in this country. I agree that as a society and as a people we are not racist. Unfortunately, however, there is a small minority who engage in racism, and it is beginning to creep and grow among our population and our community. That is very regrettable. It goes without saying that we have to recognise that our hate crime legislation has been largely absent in dealing with the modern forms of racism which are prevalent among people who promote racism. The Government should do more through our local authority structures to promote better integration of our immigrant community, because we know it is our immigrant community, our minorities, the LGBT community and the Traveller community who are most impacted by racism. Local authorities have not done enough to step up to the plate and integrate migrants in our communities with the wider community. That role needs to be looked at and expanded upon. In last year's local elections many parties - the Minister's party, the Labour Party, my party and perhaps others I am not aware of - stood candidates from diverse backgrounds. We had a good candidate elected in Limerick city, Councillor Azad Talukder, who came from Bangladesh. He has done great work in promoting and seeking to integrate the migrant community and will shortly become the deputy mayor of Limerick city and county. We need to build on that. We have never seen in the Oireachtas diversification like we have now beginning at local authority level. I would welcome a start to that.

There is no doubt that the State is being racist in not dealing with the almost 25,000 undocumented migrants living and contributing to our society and our economy. These are people who have come in and have been visa overstayers for whatever reasons, but they are now here, they are embedded, they are integrated, they are working and they want to contribute to society, and we have to deal with that reality. We campaigned for the undocumented Irish in the United States and we are hypocritical as a State for not dealing with the undocumented here.

Social media have a huge role to play in advancing racism, regrettably. I have had numerous occasions to contact Facebook and other providers and they are simply not equipped or not prepared to deal with the prevalence and the spread of racism.

We have all, I hope, been shocked and deeply saddened and angered by the injustices we have seen coming out of the US. It is easy to talk about the evils of racism as being over there, all the way over in America, but here in Ireland we need to search our own hearts. Prejudice is deeply rooted in all of us. It is fed by background, popular culture and, in Ireland, a sometimes clannish mistrust of people from other cultures. It is all borne out of a complex sense of inferiority because, as a colonised country and as migrants, we were once sinned against. However, as our President, Michael D. Higgins, once said, we have also been sinners.

As a nation we need to look at the places where these attitudes are formed. I could give examples but we all know them. The terrible truth is that racism exists in Ireland. It needs to be called out and stamped out. I was shocked when a constituent showed me one EU study which found that 13% of black people have experienced racism in Ireland. This compares with the EU average of only 5%. As a country we desperately need to examine our conscience. Countless studies show that multicultural societies are enriched societies. I praise community groups like Clonakilty Friends of Asylum Seekers. They have done Trojan work in supporting direct provision residents and helping them to feel part of the community as well as helping locals to inform and educate themselves on their backgrounds. I also praise the incoming hate speech legislation and the potential incoming Government's pledge to once and for all end direct provision. We need a closer look at our institutions as well. Our social and political institutions need to ask themselves whether they are fully representative of modern Ireland. Deputies need only take a look around this room. It is plain to see we are not fully representative of modern Ireland and her ethnicities. That needs to change if we are serious about driving out the prejudice that fuels racism.

I am sharing time, with three minutes for Deputy Ó Broin and five minutes for Deputy Andrews.

I wish to acknowledge the work that has been done but I believe we in this country have a long distance to go. This is true of many parts of the world, but of Ireland in particular. The Black Lives Matter movement has grown up in recent years and has become prevalent since the death unfortunately, under the knee of a policeman, of Mr. Floyd in the United States. It has brought everything of this nature very much into focus. I have heard some people react by saying that all lives matter and not only black lives. That is true but the movement has grown up out of a particular situation in the United States, where there is an atmosphere between African-Americans and the police service that is toxic. We want to ensure that does not happen anywhere else in the world. That is the context in which the movement has grown up.

We have heard the battle cry for people to come together. It has forced people in many parts of the world to look into their own history and past. For example, Deputy O'Callaghan mentioned the Congo and the situation in Belgium. We need to look into our present to determine the situation. I spoke to a schoolteacher some months ago. She told me of a primary school in a small town in the west of Ireland and how two children came into the classroom. They were obviously not Irish. They were of African extraction. Within a couple of weeks there were reports of them being bullied by the other children. When the teacher looked into it, it transpired what the other children were hearing at home was coming into the classroom. We need to look at all of that. We need to examine where we are going as a society. We need to put in the work to ensure that we change everything in that respect. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination report in 2019 made a range of recommendations. I acknowledge the formation of the committee referred to by the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, some minutes ago. This effected one of those recommendations. Yet, many others need to be implemented with haste in the context of where we are now.

A range of factors come into it when we look at what develops racism. People hold an attitude towards, and fear of, something happening from abroad and of people coming in from abroad. They believe this will have an impact on our economy and social welfare system. All of these fallacies make up one aspect of it. There is also an aspect whereby people fear an erosion of culture. This is nativism. The thinking is that the Irish are the best and anyone else or any new people coming in would somehow dilute that. That is another fallacy and it needs to be addressed. Another factor that has a serious impact on this is shocks in our economy. When a shock comes to our economy, people fear that there will be fewer jobs and opportunities. They see people coming from other places or people of difference as a threat to their security or status in society. Those things need to be examined closely.

The issue we need to come to the core of is attitude formation and how it happens. Most people have a different view or perspective on life. It comes from either their experience or whatever information they dwell in and where they get their information from.

The vast majority of Irish people do not have much experience of people from other countries. As such, it is not from their own experience that they get this. They get it from informational fallacies. People have mentioned social media. Social media is one of the key problems in Ireland because people with extreme views who would never meet anyone else with the same extreme views are sharing them on social media. They find one another and put forward these ridiculous arguments about all sorts of situations. This is not just happening in Ireland - it has become a global phenomenon. Unfortunately, some of the political changes that we have seen in parts of Europe, the US and elsewhere are evidence of that.

We need to reach a point where we can examine where to go in this regard. This year has been unique and there will be many historical turning points in it. In the new decade before us, we need to consider how to have a new age of reason where everything is examined through clear analysis and reasoned debate and then work out how and why people form such negative and dangerous opinions and how to erode those. It is all well and fine to shout "racist" at someone and accuse people of being racists, but we need to get under that and determine how they formed their opinions and how to erode them as we move into the future.

Before I hand over to Deputy Ó Broin, I will say that although it is certainly for the Government to lead on this, the real effort is not just the Government's to make. Rather, it is for every aspect of our society. We all must work together to ensure we erode racism everywhere in our society.

As other Members have said, racism exists in Ireland, but it is important to state that it is not a new problem. I remember as a teenager watching an English television drama set on a building site in London. At the height of an argument between an old Irish navvy and young black British brickie, the Irish lad said without a trace of irony to the British lad, "Why don't you go back to where you came from?". That one sentence encapsulates the very heart of racism - the idea that someone does not belong, is not from here and, therefore, should be treated differently.

For this reason, I believe that the Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 2004 - the idea that, despite being born in Ireland, people do not belong here in the same way we do because of who their parents are - was racist. It is why I believe that opposition to Traveller accommodation, including the sale of public land to prevent such accommodation being provided, is telling those families that they do not belong and is ultimately racist. It is why I believe that the segregation of asylum applicants into wholly inappropriate direct provision is racist. It is why the significant number of physical and verbal attacks on people of colour are racist and why anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are racist.

It is time to stop asking whether we have a problem with racism and start saying it is time to do much more to combat it. This week, the Irish Network Against Racism published a useful online resource, entitled "10 Things You Can Do About Racism in Ireland". I recommend that every Deputy and all people concerned about the problem read it and do something.

Of course, words are not enough and action at all levels, especially Government, is what matters. Let us make a clear statement today - Ireland belongs to all of us, not just those of us who were born here, but those who come here, work here and contribute to our society. Let us work together and tackle racism once and for all.

The unjustifiable murder of George Floyd has sparked a long overdue conversation on an important issue, that is, racism. While prejudice, discrimination and antagonism are evidently indisputable in the US, the Irish are not as innocent as we make ourselves out to be. In recent months, I have been disappointed to hear people saying that racism does not exist in Ireland. Have they forgotten about the thousands of people who are living in direct provision and are marginalised in those centres? Have they forgotten those who are forced to share rooms with people who are usually strangers? This was even before we add concerns about Covid-19 to the equation. Have they forgotten that asylum seekers are refused jobs and spend years in centres only to be deported? Have they forgotten that some people who are born and raised in Ireland are not granted automatic citizenship due to racist beliefs and fears?

Have they forgotten about the thousands of black citizens who are told to go back to their own countries every day? These are only a few examples.

My point is that injustice, inequality and racism are prevalent in Ireland. I encourage everybody to continue to support this fight for justice. We must continue to educate ourselves, campaign, donate, sign petitions and get involved in politics and advocacy long after the hashtag ends. This is not just a trend on Twitter or Instagram, it is real life and it is the difference between life and death for many, as we have seen. If we have to start somewhere, why should it not be in our own country? Let us abolish direct provision. What is outlined in this regard in the programme for Government is a positive step forward. It is really important that we monitor progress on that commitment. The direct provision centres deny asylum seekers basic human rights while, at the same time, isolating them from the rest of the community. It is wrong to preach about racism and injustice in Ireland when, in practice, we are doing very little to change it. We must stand in solidarity with those who are being discriminated against and we must fight institutional racism together. It is not enough to be not racist; we must be anti-racist and we must act now to end direct provision. There is no strength without unity. Those words give me hope because they were written and sent to me by my daughter recently. Young people really give me hope for the future and a belief that we will defeat racism.

When we acknowledge that we want our citizens to be anti-racist, it is, of course, understandable. It is something that we must strive for. However, in the international arena, Ireland is not anti-racist. We are not anti-racist when we refuse to stand up to the racist state that is Israel. We must be anti-racist and challenge the apartheid, terror state that is Israel.

I thank the Deputy.

I have five minutes. I think the clock is wrong.

I am afraid the Deputy does not have five minutes. The clock is correct.

I understood that I had five minutes of the time allocated.

Ten minutes were allocated to the Deputy and his colleagues.

With the House's indulgence, I will take another minute. We must challenge the annexation of more Palestinian land. How can we say we want to end racism if we do not stand up to racist Israel? I have to think that we did not want to upset anyone in advance of the United Nations Security Council vote. Not including Senator Frances Black's Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 in the programme for Government is a huge setback and a kick in the teeth for Palestinians and all those who campaigned in respect of that legislation. This was an opportunity to stand up to state racism but, instead, we threw the Palestinians to the wolves.

Finally, I welcome the commitment to examine the introduction of a new ground of discrimination based on socio-economically disadvantaged status under the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts. However, it seems vague and not very definitive. I mention this because, increasingly, there is an intersection between class and race. Many people of colour are facing race and class discrimination and I would welcome legislation on this issue as a priority. I thank the Ceann Comhairle and appreciate the indulgence of the House.

I welcome this discussion. My colleague has already recognised that there is a fairly obvious deficiency in what we are doing. We are basically a room full of white men talking about racism. It is important to say that.

And one woman.

Apologies. I had a look around earlier but did not spot Deputy Catherine Murphy sitting right behind me. As we go forward, we should have a committee session on this where we can hear people talk directly about their experiences.

I want to address a couple of points. Racism is not exceptional. When we start talking about racists as individuals, we lose the ability to see how imbued racism is in every aspect of our society. I prefer to talk about racism because it is everywhere. If we are fully honest with each other, we will acknowledge that we all have used it at some stage in our life. I have used it, I am ashamed to say, and I think every one of us has done so. There certainly are some people in this Dáil - not here today, from what I can tell - who have used it to get into this House. That needs to be called out. Only a couple of weeks ago, a Deputy used it in a parliamentary question in order to get attention. That needs to be called out. Whatever way this House is configured in the weeks ahead, I will continue to call it out if I see it in my colleagues or in people across the aisle.

There are good policies coming on board and there are many goods plans. This House has huge capacity and influence in regard to this problem, not so much in terms of influencing policies, which are important, but in terms of how we all speak in public. There are 158 Deputies from across the country. We are leaders in our communities. People look up to us in our communities. They listen to what we say. We need to be conscious of how we talk about issues in public. When we knock on doors and racism appears to us we need to challenge it and put a check on it. When a new accommodation centre for asylum seekers is to be located in our area we need to be conscious of our language, how we dealt with that and how we deal with constituents who might have an issue with it. Similarly with accommodation for Travellers, we all can say nice things but when push comes to shove, there are Members of this House who also have opposed accommodation for Travellers in their areas. When there have been articles in the newspapers about an individual who committed a crime who is not white and Irish people have piled on and used racism. We have all used racism and we need to call it out.

I will use the remainder of my time reading into the record statements from people who have experienced racism. The first statement is from Emer O'Neill:

My mum told me when I was about five or six that she watched me try to scrub the brown from my skin and cry because it wouldn't come off.

Years later, I have to endure hearing my five-year-old telling me that he wished that he had skin like his dad and that he wants to be white like everybody else.

That just kills me. As much as I try to lift him up and try to help him feel black and proud, his peers, the media and day-to-day life, they have more influence than anything.

There's no reason why a child should feel badly about their skin colour and that's something that comes from the top down, through parents, family and friends. Racism is a taught thing.

The following statement is from 25 year old Sian English-Adams who is Jamaican-Irish:

As I progressed on to secondary school that's when I found that I really really got the brunt of racial abuse. There were guys on my bus and they used to basically jeer me because my nose was too big, my forehead was too big, that I was too black or I don't belong here in Ireland, to go back to my home country.

And I used to sit there sometimes and think but this is my home country; you guys are my people so where do I actually belong?

The following statement is from 19 year old Wura Elsie who is Nigerian-Irish and studying nursing in UCD:

Growing up in Ireland for me was very difficult and hard to be honest because unlike a lot of people I grew up in direct provision and that is something that I find so hard to talk about.

I remember getting bullied at one point. It was a group of boys that would say, "if you don't do this I'm going to call the police on you and you're going to get deported." Between eight to ten years old in primary school and like your biggest fear is being deported.

I didn't realise how bad racism was until I started working in hospitals. Trying to learn and just being in the learning environment and experiencing racism from patients and some nurses was horrible and very disheartening as a student because this is a career path that you are trying to go through and it is already challenging as it is.

The following statement is from Levine and it is contracted. I cannot get it all in unfortunately today:

In secondary school, that's when verbal and a bit of physical abuse were manifested towards me. Certain parents didn't want their kids to be friends with an "N" word child. I remember being told that I was here stealing your houses, your social welfare money and to go back to my country. In class sometimes they would bully me purely because I am black and exclude me from games in break time. I found myself either alone or with people of my own colour.

This very line of abuse in regard to people coming here and using our resources was used in this House a couple of weeks ago by a Deputy in a parliamentary question.

The following is an extract from a statement from a person who works in Leinster House:

Dealing with the authorities can be daunting the moment your surname is mentioned. Your passport is checked for its authenticity, your application appears to take longer than the normal processing time, the person interviewing you has your surname circled during the interview and it knocks you right off course and when they call your name over the intercom making it sound more alien than it is - you find yourself slightly embarrassed by your name as onlookers watch you take your place in line.

The strong foundations that my parents and grandparents gave me could never have prepared me for the harsh reality of racism in our society, where you experience verbal and behaviourial indignities just because of who you are as a person and what makes you you.

The statement continued:

Living in a world where you are targeted with daily microagressions and derogatory remarks, one can argue that it made me resilient, but it has left scars. Racism affects your mental health. You want to be able to share your life with those around you but you have found that society is not ready for it so you are prepared for the unexpected. It sees you as different, as though it is a bad thing. As I walk the halls of Leinster House, I am conscious of my difference and I know that difference is a strength and not a weakness but I will continue to face the harsh reality of racism in our society but I hope these very halls that hold the power of change will lead to a brighter future for many in Ireland where racism through public policy is addressed.

I will read one last statement:

When I tell people about racism I am being told to relax, to not be so serious, to learn how to take a joke, to stop being so radical, to ignore it, to get over it. It is people who never experienced it who are the first to tell me how to feel about racism. Yet, my feelings about racism is not a matter of choice. Racism is a powerful force that is destroying my dignity, my mental well-being, my sense of belonging and my self worth. I know that it is difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it, that even a seemingly trivial experience can have a long-lasting effect on a person at the receiving end.

Let me tell you two stories that may help you to understand. Some years ago I was robbed on a street at knife point. As you can imagine, this experience left me in a state of shock. For weeks after that experience I was feeling very insecure and I had flashbacks every time someone was walking behind me. After a couple of months though that feeling started to wear off, my sense of security slowly came back, and within less than a year I was again walking on the streets with no fear. Then two and a half years ago I was refused a service in a shop, under a false pretence that there was no change in the till and that the card machine did not work. As I was walking out, I observed the next Irish customer being served, he paid in cash and was given change. The experience lives with me until today. Until today, two and a half years later, I am not able to cross the entrance to that shop. I still feel that humiliation, sense of injustice and hurt. I was reduced to feeling like nobody and less than human. I did not do anything about this. I knew that not much more could be done. I could complain to the shop management but I didn't want to go through the next experience of disempowerment and injustice. I was in this situation so many times before so I knew too well that my experience would not be taken seriously, and the feeling of hurt would only be deepened. On previous occasions I heard some made up excuses, I had my experience diminished and undermined, I was told to ignore and get over it. So this time I decided to do nothing for nothing could be done, so I chose to protect my dignity from further hurt.

I hope that these two stories will help you to understand the difference between a victimhood based on racism and victimhood in general. In the first example, I was targeted randomly for financial gain. Even though I could potentially be physically hurt, I knew that who I was did not play any role, therefore the experience didn't cut deep into my soul and didn't leave scars. In the second story I was physically safe, yet the scars will never heal. I was targeted because of who I am, I was made ashamed of my identity, and I was made unwelcome in a country that is home to me. What made the situation worse was to know that my experience didn't matter, there was nowhere that I could go complain, to be taken seriously, to at least receive a listening ear and expression of solidarity.

Racism is not a joke, it is not something that can be ignored, and once experienced it can never be forgotten. I am not expecting miracles, I know that we have a long way ahead of us. However, the first step is to acknowledge that racism exists in Ireland, and to acknowledge the destroying powers of racism on individuals and communities. I want my experiences to be taken seriously, and I want to feel that there is a way to see justice for victims of racism.

In Ireland we are in a unique position, in between Brexit and Trump, to give a different view to the world of the nature of discrimination and of our own experience because of our own history. We are the people of Famine ships, who have gone to every corner of world. We understand the immigrant experience like no other. That is why it is deeply disappointing when people in this House use racism, fear and language to punch down. Racism is about power. It is sometimes about trying to isolate a group that one feels is not powerful, because one can, and therefore to give power to oneself.

We have Deputies in this House who have said that asylum seekers are freeloaders, blackguards and hoodlums, that asylum seekers need to be deprogrammed and that asylum seekers are here to sponge off the system. We have two members of a governing party who have been on the wrong side of anti-Traveller literature controversies, one of whom sits at Cabinet. A number of years ago a Fine Gael councillor said in a public statement that he would not deal with black Africans. He lost the Whip for 18 months. We need to call out the hypocrisy of standing in a Parliament like this full of white people and saying that racism is something other people do because it is what politicians in Ireland do. The reaction to racism among public representatives is often that he or she was not speaking for the party, and then we move on.

There is a sense that statements, such as anti-Traveller rhetoric, are not racism but are instead something different. I first ran for election in the local elections in 2004, which coincided with the 2004 citizenship referendum proposed by Fianna Fáil and supported by Fine Gael. It was a deliberate attempt, in my mind, to punch down at or amplify a suspicion that one cannot trust an asylum seeker because there were suggestions that heavily pregnant asylum seekers were in Ireland purely to get citizenship for their children. Can one imagine holding a constitutional referendum on that matter on the same day as a local election? One can only imagine the type of poison that unleased.

Let us please not stand in this auditorium, Parliament and Assembly and say that racism is what other people in Irish society do and that we have no part in it because we do. I do not think people and political parties in this Parliament should be going to fundraisers in America and taking money from racist Trump supporters. I do not think that is good enough. We have to call out Irish America on its support for the current President of the United States. We have to call out Irish communities in Britain who are anti-immigrant, something which is so hypocritical that it is astounding. If we do not take that stand, who will? How can we go to the United States on St. Patrick's Day, hand over bowls of shamrock and advocate for the undocumented Irish in America, and not do the very same for the 26,000 undocumented workers here? They are vulnerable, poorly paid and are in vulnerable work.

Daniel O'Connell once said about the Irish slave owner, "How can the generous, the charitable, the humane, and the noble emotions of the Irish heart have become extinct amongst you?" It is important, then, for the current generation of Irish leaders to speak to the hearts and experience of Irish-American, Anglo-Irish or Irish-Australian politicians all over the world who engage in racist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment about the history of the coffin ships, discrimination, being on the lowest run and being punched down.

What can we do? I mentioned that we need to work on the regularisation of undocumented migrants. We need to pass the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018, not just for Traveller children but for all Irish children. We need to legislate for citizenship for children born here. We do not need another referendum to overturn what happened in 2004.

The 2004 amendment enabled this Assembly to pass whatever legislation it wished to. We need to change that. We need to ensure we have citizenship rights for every child who is born here. We need to extend the right to work for asylum seekers by removing the erroneous barriers that exist to their working here. We need to legislate against hate speech. The Minister spoke about the 1989 Act, which has been proven to be effectively useless. Many agencies and groups have unsuccessfully tried over a number of years to get better and more robust hate-speech and hate-crime legislation. Now is the time to do it.

I have spoken previously about the importance of having the Dáil, the Seanad, the teaching profession, the Garda and other public service professions reflect the population they serve. It is not good enough to say it is an aspiration. It is important for us to actually do something about it. For an Irish Nigerian child, an Irish Polish child or an Irish Traveller child, how powerful would it be to have somebody in their classroom teaching them who looks just like them? For people who are white and particularly who are male, the world is run by people who look just like them and the television is full of people who look just like them. For those who are not it can be a very cold place and it can feel as if they do not fit in. We have had a bad history of this with people with particular accents, people from particular addresses and obviously people from the Traveller community.

Now is the opportunity to make our public broadcaster, the teaching profession, the Garda and this Assembly more reflective of the population. With 11 appointments due to be made to the Seanad in a number of weeks, there is no reason not to put the fine words of the Minister's speech into action and actually appoint to the Seanad - to these Houses of the Oireachtas - somebody from these minority communities, rather than a party political hack, which is inevitably what will happen. How powerful would it be to have somebody from the black community or the Traveller community in Ireland sitting in the Seanad because the Taoiseach has made it a priority? Alternatively, will we just go back to the way we were? Running for election and getting elected is important and if punching down on asylum seekers, immigrants or Travellers is what gets someone elected, that is just the way the system works.

As has been said, all of us have our prejudices. Anybody who stands up here and says they do not have prejudices is telling lies because we all have. We all grew up in this country and we all know about the sectarianism, the anti-Traveller sentiment and the prejudices that are all around us. We all feel them, and we often let ourselves down by using them. Certainly, the political system could do much more than just the words that are spoken here today.

The heading for today's debate is combatting racism and supporting inclusion, two issues one would have hoped would be a no-brainer in 2020 Ireland. However, even thinking such issues should not be a thing shows a privilege that all of us must not face, however uncomfortable that may be as we listen to the real-life lived experiences of black people and people of colour in Ireland. Last week the legend that is Paul McGrath tweeted: "Honestly I think Racism exists everywhere. But being Irish means we should know a little of how it feels to be perceived as less than, even when in our hearts we knew we are all Equals." While it is true that the Irish have known our fair share of oppression, the reality is that during that oppression we still maintained our invisibility cloak of white privilege.

Of course, we know that there are many forms of discrimination, including socioeconomic, gender-based, anti-Traveller bias and generally anything that makes up a minority group will likely become a target of discrimination.

The fact is that race discrimination in Ireland has been, and continues to be, a significant issue and one that causes serious anguish to so many of our fellow citizens.

The spotlight at the moment is very rightly focused on racism because of the global actions arising following the murder of George Floyd. The focus, however, is not at the expense of recognising all other forms of discrimination. Shockingly, we can fight many different battles simultaneously and care about them all equally. Right now, one house is burning more rapidly than others and so requires our immediate attention. That should not be an issue for anyone who understands empathy and solidarity. We have thankfully seen a massive outpouring of support and solidarity across the world and across Ireland. While many have spent some days posting various issues on the hashtag Black Lives Matter, along with information pieces and black squares to their social media feeds, we must be conscious that when this visceral moment passes, the conversations and resulting necessary changes must not be brushed aside. There must be action to follow this.

While some negative things, rightly and understandably, are being said about social media, one of the most positive social media initiatives, among many, to emerge from the current situation has been the creation of an Instagram account called Black and Irish. On that page, black people from a variety of backgrounds in Ireland share experiences of both subtle and covert racism they have lived with here. The tales told are beautifully balanced by the details of the exciting and vibrant lives of the people telling their stories and the way in which they are contributing to Irish society. I could go on all day about this if I was to reference all the beautiful stories, and it is well worth taking a look at it. One could maybe read Rebekah who is half-Irish and half-Ethiopian and about to finish her master's degree in clinical psychology, or read of Samuel from Lagos and now Dublin who is a successful model, or Katja originally from Burundi who focuses on empowering young women. Each of their stories, and the myriad others on the page, tell of heartache and discrimination but all are hopeful of an Ireland that is improving and which is increasingly diverse and accepting. We must build on that. This improvement will only happen where specific actions and strategies are employed to ensure proper and cohesive integration and diversification. That means everything from schools admission policies to national housing policy to targeted funding for sports or other specific measures to increase participation of minorities. I look forward to next year when we see the various competitions in sport, which is one area where we see greater diversity. More needs to be done however. Equally, while it is refreshing to watch major media organisations here at home giving a proper focus to Black Lives Matter and to the experiences of black people and people of colour in Ireland, what we need to see as the current furore recedes from front pages across the world, is for actual action to flow from the current, but very welcome, lip-service. This includes seeing far more diversity on our television screens and in newsrooms with journalists, reporters and presenters who are not exclusively white. It means this Chamber and our Seanad Chamber having black people and people of colour in a representative capacity. There are two women here in the Chamber at the moment and it is very difficult, as a woman, not to notice the imbalance. Can one imagine what it feels like for people of colour to look in here and not feel represented. Ultimately it means that all of us must sit uncomfortably with ourselves and accept that true integration means challenging ourselves, sharing the microphone, sharing the spaces, and sharing our society equally. To do anything different is, quite bluntly, to perpetuate racism.

Although it is very welcome that there is a commitment in the programme for Government to phasing out direct provision within the lifetime of the incoming Government, that does not mean we should not do things now or call things out.

Several issues have come to the fore in recent weeks. I do not think we have satisfactorily dealt with the matter relating to Cahirsiveen and how it played out. That will be inquired into, and rightly so. People are still living in conditions that I regard as substandard. The benchmark we should use is to ask whether the accommodation in question is good enough for us or our children to live in. A report has been compiled on the situation in Milltown Malbay. Following its publication, I, and probably many other Deputies, received correspondence detailing that the ceilings are leaking, water is running through light fittings, there is no door on an en suite facility where there are non-familial shared arrangements, there is no privacy for occupants and rodents have been spotted in bedrooms. There is a lack of heating or hot water, with water only available for one hour per day. There a curfew on adults and the food is substandard. I continue to have serious concerns about that situation. When that plays out in the public arena, it sends a big signal in the context of how official Ireland treats people. We must return to that issue. I am not satisfied with how it has played out.

I echo much of what has been stated regarding the Traveller community. I remember a couple of girls coming to my office and talking about their hopes for the future. One of them stated that she knows that when she goes into a premises to hand in her curriculum vitae, it will be in the bin before she is out the door. I could not argue with her because the progression that Travellers hoped for has not happened. When one ostracises and excludes people, one will draw a reaction. There must be a significant programme of intervention and an acceptance that there has been appalling discrimination in respect of the Traveller community. The House will probably discuss the awful case reported in the media in recent days when it deals with domestic violence next week. There must be a follow-through on the experience of those women and the courage it took for them to go public about it.

I am sharing time with Deputy Barry. We must not just condemn racism, we must also fight against it. That is why People Before Profit declares absolute solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the wave of protest across the world in the aftermath of the horrific killing of George Floyd. There has been a rightful recognition by a vast number of people worldwide that it was not an isolated incident but, rather, a deadly and brutal consequence of systemic and widespread racism across America and the rest of the world. Anyone who spends time on social media will know that those putting forward that view will very quickly receive a torrent of abuse asking why one is going on about the Black Lives Matter movement and what is happening in America. One is asked what it has to do with us and told that surely all lives matter. Of course, what that sentiment fails to recognise, sometimes deliberately, is that it is precisely because all lives matter that we must declare solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The death of George Floyd could only happen in a society in which some people believe that the lives of black people and other people of colour do not matter.

They believe that they are somehow lesser, that they are dehumanised and, therefore, it is acceptable to treat them as less than human. That is the essence of racism, a system perpetuated by the likes of Donald Trump, who deliberately and cynically uses it to try to deflect away from his own failings on so many levels to turn people against one another by dehumanising black people and people of colour.

As has been said, if Trump is the most visible and blunt exponent of racism among leaders in the world today, it is not something that is alien to this country. Speakers have already mentioned the 27th amendment of the Constitution, which denies equality and citizenship to some children born in this country. There is the anti-Traveller racism, which is the shame of this State and which can very possibly be seen in the horrific consequences for the eight victims of James O'Reilly, who suffered the most terrible abuse. The allegation that is made, and that seems very credible, is that their ethnic origin as Travellers led to a poor response by the State in dealing with the horrific abuse they suffered. It is also seen in the fact that in the aftermath of the crash of 2008, the Traveller accommodation programme was cut from €70 million a year to €4 million in 2015 and, somehow, this was deemed acceptable; that 13% of female Travellers finish school as distinct from 70% of settled females; and that Travellers are six times more likely to die from suicide than people from the settled community. Of course, there is the horrific system of direct provision, which segregates asylum seekers and refugees in inhumane and degrading conditions that no person would accept for his or her own family or loved ones but which we seem to think are okay to inflict on people, mostly people of colour, who come to this country looking for refuge.

To those who say we should not raise these issues or that, somehow, it is not the business of the Irish people to worry about these things, I would say that that sentiment is a betrayal of the Irish revolutionary and radical tradition, which has always understood the need to stand with the oppressed and exploited, wherever they are across the world. I think particularly of Damien Dempsey's song, "Choctaw Nation", where he reminds people that the Choctaw nation of Native Americans, who suffered at the hands of slavers and frontiersmen, often Irishmen, rather than respond by saying, “We do not care about the plight of the Irish”, when the Irish were suffering famine conditions in the 1840s, instead sent money, aid and solidarity to Famine victims here in Ireland. That sort of internationalism, that sort of solidarity, standing with the oppressed, standing against racism, is actually the duty and responsibility of people across the world, but very particularly people in this country, given our history.

I want to start by talking about State racism. Now 20 years old, the direct provision system is cruel and heartless. It deliberately puts asylum seekers into miserable living conditions to discourage others from travelling to here from outside fortress Europe, and it deliberately separates asylum seekers from the rest of Irish society, the better to make it easy to deport people whose applications do not succeed. It is the major example in this country of State racism.

We have had reports in recent days of plans to end direct provision, and provisions are included in the programme for Government. However, to me, it looks suspiciously like a rebranding of direct provision and I want to ask some questions about that. First, the programme for Government states that direct provision will be ended within the lifetime of this Government. This Government potentially could last for five years. I can say very clearly to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens that the people who marched with Black Lives Matter and the asylum seekers who protested in the centres are not prepared to wait five years for the dismantling of this system.

The programme for Government states the accommodation will now be centred on a not-for-profit approach. The removal of the profiteers is welcome. It is as a result of the pressure that has come from below. However, it is not acceptable to switch from private direct provision centres to publicly owned direct provision centres, in other words, direct provision centres that still provide institutional accommodation to asylum seekers and deny asylum seekers the right to seek housing and accommodation themselves within society with all of the other rights, including housing assistance payment, that other people living in this country have, and including the right to work. Is institutional accommodation going to be abolished or is it not? It seems to me it is not. If someone can tell me otherwise I would like to hear it. It is an important debate.

The programme for Government speaks about speeding up applications for asylum. If an application is accepted a person has the right to stay but if it is rejected what happens? Often times people and their families end up being deported. Deportation is a brutal policy. People are taken into custody and put on flights and kicked out of the country against their will. Will the speeding up of applications mean the speeding up of deportations? We saw almost 600 deportations in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

What the people who have spoken out against direct provision and who have marched want is the speedy dismantling of this system. They want the right for asylum seekers to live in the community with the same rights as others in our society and an end to the racist policy of deportation. I challenge Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party to contradict me if I am wrong but it looks to me as though what is being proposed is that this could take a number of years, that institutional accommodation is not to be abolished and that they will continue with the policy of deportation, including quicker deportations.

Citizenship rights were taken away from people outside the EU who were born here after 2004 in a racist referendum. Some of those young people have since been deported. Now that they are in the teenage years they face discrimination in schools, work and study as a result of this. Solidarity and People Before Profit Deputies brought a Bill before the last Dáil stating citizenship rights should be restored. I will resubmit the Bill and add to it a provision that young people who grow up in this country should also have the right to citizenship where it is denied to them at present. I had wanted to go on and make important points about anti-Travellers racism in this society but the clock is against me. This is an issue I will certainly return to.

In recent days we have all received hundreds of emails from people throughout the country regarding the Black Lives Matter campaign, a civil rights campaign that has its origins in the slave trade from Africa to North America. Not one of these emails references human trafficking, which is the third most lucrative illicit business in the world after arms and drug trafficking. Human trafficking, or modern-day slave trading, is a hidden crime. Its victims cannot or dare not make themselves known to the authorities for fear of retaliation or because they are illegal emigrants. A common feature of many victims of trafficking is that their home countries are poor and there are few opportunities for employment. The groups most vulnerable to this crime are those of low status without powerful protectors, typically women and children, especially orphans or those subjected to domestic violence, in addition to impoverished men and those in debt bondage.

Many of the trafficked adults are deceived about the type of work they will be doing and may be charged extortionate fees by agencies for arranging work. When they arrive they are tricked or intimidated into surrendering their travel documents and either forced into prostitution or subjected to forced labour. The types of legitimate work that women think they are being recruited to do include jobs in the restaurant trade, domestic work or childminding. They may also be promised education and training opportunities. Some women know they may have to work in the sex industry for a while but they have no idea of the violence and degradation to which they will be subjected. Many children or their families think they are opting for a better life with better education and employment opportunities, sometimes with a private foster family. Many of the victims are held in what is an invisible prison. They are in a foreign country with no language skills and are vulnerable as a result. The same mechanisms have been used in domestic violence down through the generations in this country and elsewhere. Such victims are often raped to test them out initially. In some cases, they are offered to the traffickers' friends to cultivate them into the trade of prostitution.

In 2007, I was appalled to be told that children had disappeared from State care and had been trafficked into the sex industry here and the UK, and into labour exploitation mainly in the UK. I questioned why we had not heard about this scandal before and I was told it was because these children came from Africa and Asia and nobody cared. Nobody even knew how many children had gone missing and did not really care either. They had no mother or father living here in Ireland. They were not from here. As far as official statistics were concerned they never existed. That was institutional and societal racism.

Things were not made easy for me in getting answers and exposing the fact that during the noughties, the most prosperous decade we have seen in Ireland, 443 children went missing from State care and were never found. It was going on unnoticed around us. At least some of these 443 children who were unaccounted for had been forced into the exploitation industry, prostitution or slave labour. What was the response of official Ireland? As an example, in February 2010 a spokesperson for the HSE stated it was unsubstantiated that any of the children who went missing from HSE care had been trafficked but the previous July gardaí had raided three restaurants, including a very popular high-end restaurant, after receiving intelligence that 34 missing children had been in contact with this particular businessman. A subsequent media report on the case in the following June ran a headline stating that missing minors had been traced to a Chinese restaurateur. The article went on to state that gardaí were to recommend that a wealthy Chinese restaurateur be charged with the trafficking of several Chinese children who had disappeared from State care at accommodation hostels for unaccompanied boys and girls in the preceding years.

It was not just that the HSE, which had legal responsibility for the welfare of these children, was failing them. It was also questioning my credibility in highlighting this particular scandal. Unofficial and off the record briefings to the media by official Ireland were to move on and that there was no story. On top of this, the abuse my staff and I put up with when raising this issue was absolutely horrendous. People did not want to have the situation addressed. The attitude was that these children deserved what they got for coming to Ireland in the first place, including the five young Nigerian girls who vanished in June 2007, the youngest of whom was just 11 years of age.

The fact was that migrant girls as young as 15 had been found by gardaí in brothels throughout this country. These figures were only the tip of the iceberg, with suspected child victims of trafficking ranging in age from as young as three to 17 years old who had been transported to Ireland from foreign countries for forced labour, begging, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

At the height of the political focus on historical residential abuse in our industrial schools, that very same dereliction of care on behalf of the State was continuing to allow those who exploited and abused children of different colours and nationalities to go on undetected. That is institutional racism. As a Member of the Oireachtas who did not want to let this continue simply on the basis of the colour of a child's skin, my staff and I faced an avalanche of abuse every time I highlighted this injustice.

That abuse paled into insignificance when I successfully turned the legal tables on prostitution for the very first time in this country, making it illegal knowingly to purchase sex from a person who had been trafficked into the country. This was the very first time in Irish law that a person availing of the services of a prostitute was subject to criminal sanction, and it was the precursor to the subsequent legislation by the Minister at the time, Frances Fitzgerald, criminalising the purchase of sex. The reason that I argued so strongly at the time and was able to convince the then Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, was because of the scale of migrant women in the sex industry in Ireland at that point. Up to 97% of the 1,000 women involved in indoor prostitution in Ireland at that time were migrant women. In fact, in 2007 and 2008, a minimum of 102 women and girls were clearly identified as sex trafficked, 11 of whom were children when they arrived in Ireland. None of these women knew they were destined for the Irish sex trade, but as far as official Ireland was concerned, they were women who had made life choices of going into such a career.

It was not just official Ireland. There was, let us say, a frosty reception by Members of this House to my success in amending that law. The abuse that was received by my office at the time from a minority of the public was vile. In fact, I recall we had to stop answering the phones altogether at one stage due to the abuse. We received some very sick correspondence as well. Yet, having had to put up with such abuse, I have been branded a racist, even by Members of this House, because I questioned the direct provision system in a particular manner, one that the public could relate to. For me, the direct provision system is inhumane and, as I have stated in this House on many occasions, is the institutional abuse of our generation.

It is far too easy for the ill-informed to throw the racist tag about when one is trying to have a constructive discussion about issues involving people from other countries and cultures. We have to be able to question what we see as wrong in our society, whether that is children of any race going missing from State care or the scandal of the direct provision system, yet attacks from keyboard warriors, abusive phone calls, and the attitudes of colleagues can leave people afraid to question what they believe is wrong and allows institutional racism to continue unchallenged.

I thank Deputy Naughten. I call Deputy Pringle.

That came up a bit quicker than I expected.

Sorry, I should have called Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, but he will be all right. Will we let Deputy Pringle continue?

Go on ahead. My colleagues are not here.

We will get the perspective from Kerry.

I will start off because Deputy Collins has a slower car than mine but he is coming now. I am glad to get the opportunity to say a few words on this topic. As we all know, there has been a lot in the media and on the television over recent weeks on the subject. My youngsters at home pointed out to me that black lives matter. We believe that all lives matter. Even the small unborn babies that we fought so hard for in this Chamber also matter. All people all around the world, whatever nationality and whatever breed or colour they are, they all matter. We all agree with that.

I am glad to say that here in Ireland, by and large, we are not racist. We welcome people from all over the world and treat them the same as ourselves. Even in Killarney we have a Bangladeshi community. Many of them have been there for 20, 21 or 22 years. They are Irish citizens now. They work in the community, around the town and around the county. They are proud to be part of our community and I am glad to say that I appreciate them, their work and the contribution they make to life in Killarney and around Kerry.

On the refugees that we bring in to direct provision, I have been saying for years that the system is wrong. When a whole family is in a room, and I have seen that - six beds shoved together in a room - that is not a healthy atmosphere for parents or children. They are standing on each other's toes. Maybe it is not exactly as bad as it was four or five years ago, but it is still very bad and very wrong.

I am saying to the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, that we should only allow the number of refugees in here that we can care for properly. We see what is happening in Cahersiveen. I do not know if the Minister will be here the next day. I will be here and I wish him the very best in any case, but I am appealing to him. The hotel in Cahersiveen is not adequate. The hallways and rooms are too small and narrow. There is no open-air space there. It is not fair on children that they cannot hop around and do as children would do in the open air on a fine day. We have had a lot of fine days and they were cooped up or else they had to go down to the town. There were problems with that when people presented with the coronavirus in the town centre. I ask the Minister, for once and for all, to close it down.

We have many schools around our county. In Ballycasheen, Killarney we have maybe 40 foreign students from different countries in that school alone. In a small school like Tahilla, at one time they had children of 13 different nationalities in that school. That was only a couple of years ago. I do not know how many are there now.

What is very important, and I have to say it here today, is that I appreciate every type of religion and none. Whatever religion people have, I appreciate that, but I do not want anyone to make little of our religion, the Catholic religion. That has been happening, even by Members of this Chamber, in the previous Dáil anyway. I regret that, because I appreciate that other people have other views and other religions, and that is fine with me, but we must be allowed to carry on our tradition and the religion that we were brought up in, without fear or favour. I am asking the Members of the incoming Dáil to ensure that our religion gets the same treatment as every other religion and that our children of Catholic origin going into schools get the same treatment that other children are getting. It has turned full circle. We have to ensure that we look after our own.

Sorry, I have gone into Deputy Collins' time. Thank you very much, Ceann Comhairle.

In 1973, when Ireland joined the Common Market, every denomination and race was to be treated equally in Ireland. I wonder if the Irish were treated in this way all over the world. Have we now become so politically correct that we are going to knock down our statues and sculptures and erase our history? The next thing we know our books will be burned to censor our history, culture and religion. What is happening worldwide is chaotic. Protesting during a pandemic is simply dangerous. People are killing and hurting each other. Is the world gone mad?

Racism is simply wrong and it must never be tolerated. As a rural politician, I have tried to make my voice heard many times on this issue, having spoken in the Dáil strongly against the way people are being treated in direct provision, living in such congregated settings. When Covid-19 hit, finally it seemed that people had started to listen to what I was saying for many years.

When we were growing up, we were taught by our parents to respect all, whether this be our own in our own country or those who lived throughout the world. Our churches, especially the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland, raised tens of millions of pounds at the time for people in Peru and Ethiopia through Trócaire or whatever means were required. Almost every second Sunday in the churches in Lowertown, Goleen, Schull and Ballydehob, all the parishioners were delighted to contribute to better the lives of those who struggled abroad and no one stands up here today and thanks the churches for doing this. All too often, people find it easier to point the finger at the churches. There was no mention of racism when I was growing up. People only gave as much as they could afford in order to help others. This was done with a heart and a half and it continues today, unacknowledged.

My proposal is simple. Our rural communities are crying out for new families to come and live in them, in the many vacant houses that are there in towns and villages. This is where a rural resettlement programme should have been launched and should be launched, where at least twofamilies in direct provision should be given the chance to live in every rural community in our country. If this was to happen, it would provide a happy home for those in direct provision. It would restart the process of rebuilding rural communities that have incredible facilities for all to enjoy and that would support inclusion and combat racism by integrating the people in direct provision into the local communities in a non-forceful manner.

The fundamental human right to dignity is inviolable in EU law and must be upheld, irrespective of the nationality or immigration status of the person. Let us not forget the Irish people who are homeless or living in hotel rooms with children squashed in like sardines, just like people in direct provision centres. This too is wrong. If the proposals we made four years ago when the programme for Government was being drawn up had been listened to, thousands of people who are in hotel rooms today could be living in rural towns and villages. They too need to be afforded the same rights as every other race and denomination. My mantra in life has always been that all lives matter, from the unborn baby in the womb to the man and woman on the street, black or white. All lives matter. Dignity, respect and a little bit of humanity would go a long way in this Covid-19 world we all find ourselves in.

I am sharing time with Deputies Harkin and Connolly. Black lives matter and that is a powerful statement. It has made us look at ourselves, which is good. Unfortunately, we have not come up trumps with the message of that statement. I have experienced first-hand the racism of Irish people in my constituency office. They might not see it as racism but there is racism in the statements they make, such as saying that people of colour get better treatment and so on. Unfortunately, that is the sentiment that comes up and one has to challenge that every time it arises because that is the only way one can deal with it.

I have been encouraged by the fact that the Irish people who are campaigning on Black Lives Matter are linking it to what we are doing in this State. That makes a serious difference to how people's lives are impacted here. The linking of it to direct provision and the use of Shannon Airport by the American war machine is encouraging. It is a pity we could not extend it to this House as well.

Unfortunately, we are not a tolerant society and saying we are is sadly not true and also leads to minimising the issue. If laws were all that were needed, we would be way ahead. Ireland would be a great country if this issue was based only on laws. Sadly, we need more than laws to ensure we defeat racism in our society. Racism has been present in this House and we have seen that in recent years. It has also played a part in some Members winning a seat here, even a member of the Government. It may not have been as blatant as some of the comments but the intention is the same, namely to make political gain out of people's differences. We need to change the way that this House looks and we must wait for elections to sort this House out but it is within the grasp of this House to make sure the Oireachtas as a whole is representative of Ireland. The three parties that are forming a Government can ensure the Seanad is representative of the country as a whole by appointing Travellers and Irish people of colour to the House to give a voice to those communities.

It is not only for blacks or Travellers to provide a voice for themselves, however. We must be representative of all the people in our community in this House as well. The most important contribution we can make is to ensure no person suffers because of what we say or do here. We should be intolerant of racism in all its forms here and then we can have legitimacy in challenging it in our society.

All of us were horrified and appalled at the death of George Floyd. It stopped us in our tracks and it was as if somebody gave us a kick in the stomach. I remember that awful feeling, as I rewatched that eight minutes and 43 seconds and all I wanted to do was shout: "Stop, please stop." In a way that is what we need to do today. We need to look inside ourselves and we need to tell ourselves to stop because while the actions of the police in the case of George Floyd were murder, plain and simple, they were just the endpoint of a scale that starts with casual racism. That is why we need to tell ourselves to stop.

Many of us carry prejudices that we do not even know about or recognise until we question ourselves. Some of our ideas are formed in a vacuum in that many of us do not see black people regularly and do not interact with them every day or week. Many people do not even interact with black people once a month. That does not make one racist but it can make one unthinking.

Our language is such that in so many instances, the colour white is associated with something that is good, pure or innocent, while the colour black often has a different connotation of something sinister, dark or wrong. Whether we like it or not, our thoughts are coloured by our language. It is difficult to look at oneself and examine those thoughts and they are often not verbally expressed but it is essential that we do so. That is what I mean when I say we sometimes need to stop and ask questions of ourselves.

We are not at the point of what happened in Minneapolis. We are not even close to that but racism is not black and white. It is a gradual move from white to grey and then to black. Minneapolis was black and the question we have to ask ourselves is what colour we are at on that scale. That is why the action we take now is crucial. If we look at so many countries across the world, we can see the divide and rule principle of them and us. It makes it so much easier for dictators to take power and add to that power by politicising the principle of them and us; the insiders and the outsiders; the good and the bad; the worthy and the unworthy; those who belong and those who are strangers; and those who are doing their best and those who are trying to take advantage. That is the direction of travel of an increasing number of rulers. We can call it a culture war or whatever we like but racism is at its core. Again, we are not at that position here and we have time to stop. I have read the programme for Government and the section on inclusion is a progressive and positive statement. If it is implemented, we will not move along that scale.

I want to comment briefly on two issues. We can do more in schools. I was a teacher and I know a lot of responsibility is placed on the shoulders of teachers.

I heard my colleague, Deputy Martin Kenny, speak about this earlier. Schools are a really important place where we ensure that we can stitch anti-racism into our curriculum and ensure that racism has no place.

As for the idea of integrating migrants into our community, I am pleased to see the commitment to end direct provision. The sooner this happens, the better. If we look to places such as Ballaghaderreen where voluntary groups and committees come together and make an effort, as neighbours, to integrate, that will stop us sliding to black on the scale to which I refer.

Fáiltím roimh an deis cúpla focal a rá ar an ábhar seo. Tá breis is dhá nóiméad agam, agus laistigh den dá nóiméad sin ba mhaith liom díriú isteach ar an tuarascáil ón Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Níl a fhios agam ar luaigh an tAire é. B'fhéidir gur luaigh ach níor chuala mé é. We speak here today because of the murder of George Floyd. I wish we were speaking because of the submission the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission made to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December 2019. That would be very helpful.

Before I come to that, we talk about racism as a disease and a cancer. That is not helpful. I did not say the Minister said it but I have heard it repeated many times. Racism is not a disease or a cancer; it is deliberate unacceptable behaviour, prejudice, discrimination, violence and murder, as we have seen in America, against a particular group or one person or people because of their race or colour. We rightly condemn what is happening in America, and the American ambassador should be called in and left under no illusion as to what we think of the behaviour of the police.

In doing that, however, we must hold a mirror up to ourselves. If we are doing that today, I welcome it. We certainly need to hold that mirror up if we look at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, an independent body, and its report. The Minister will see that the report states: "Several areas identified by the Committee in its 2011 Concluding Observations have not seen sufficient progress in the intervening period." It points out how much Ireland has changed and how we now have more than 535,475 people, 11.6% of the population, whose nationality is other than Irish. In Galway city, where we had an anti-racism strategy, which has since lapsed, it is almost 20% of the population, or one in five. Then we have the undocumented, to whom reference has been made. We have the audacity to go to America and talk about the undocumented there while ignoring 20,000 to 26,000 undocumented here.

In the few seconds I have left, I will draw the Minister's attention to the following matter. The commission tells us that we have failed to ratify a number of protocols and treaties and recommends that we proceed to ratify them. It refers to the absence of data such that we cannot really see what is happening or the existence of discrimination and disadvantage. It tells us there is extensive research demonstrating "consistent and significant levels of discrimination against minority ethnic groups in Ireland". It tells us there is "a demonstrable history of chronic racism [this is December 2019] and discrimination against Travellers in Ireland". Galway city has distinguished itself as one of the councils that spent nothing on Traveller accommodation. It goes on to tell us about what Deputy Denis Naughten referred to, human trafficking. The Minister might read it. The commission has significant concern about human trafficking and that Ireland is both a destination and a source country for it - and this is what is interesting - including people trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic work, fishing, agricultural work, the restaurant industry, waste management work and car washing services. The report highlights many more things, including direct provision. It highlights that the commission remains very seriously concerned about significant human rights issues relating to Ireland's international protection system. It refers to the admissions policy for schools and the lack of protection for and over-policing of minority ethnic communities as a result of racial profiling. It also highlights some of the good things and some of the initiatives taken by the Garda.

It seems, however, that we should stop talking and should look at this report and the expertise in it. The commission has produced its results and given the good and the bad. We should ask what we are doing about it and what steps we need to take. At the very least, the Minister should tell us why these protocols and the various conventions have not been ratified. They have been highlighted, with very little progress made since 2011, although I do welcome the progress that has been made on certain issues.

Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 12 noon.