Written Answers. - Anti-Racism Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

89 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the launch of the Government's Anti-Racism Programme on 24 October, 2001. [26410/01]

The national anti-racism awareness programme developed from a proposal I made to Government which advocated a strategic approach where public awareness would be an important component, but not the only component, of a broader framework of policies and measures to create and promote an inclusive society. The aim of the programme is to contribute to creating the environment and the conditions for building an inclusive and intercultural society in Ireland where racism is effectively addressed and cultural diversity is valued. Such a comprehensive programme has never been tried before. It is an innovative approach towards tackling racism.

The programme was officially launched by the Taoiseach on 24 October, 2001. A core budget of £4.5 million, 5.7 million has been allocated by Government to the programme over a three-year period. The programme is being implemented by a high level steering group in partnership with the equal status division of my Department. The 21 member steering group is broad-based and includes representatives of ethnic minority communities, the four social partners, national bodies such as the equality authority and the national consultative committee on racism and interculturalism, relevant Government departments and the Garda Síochána. The steering group has an independent chairperson, Mr. Joe McDonagh, former president of the GAA.

The framework for the awareness programme was drawn up by the national consultative committee on racism and interculturalism, NCCRI, following a three-month consultation process with key statutory and non-statutory organisations. The programme will be based on partnership and will aim to have a long-term sustainable impact. It will stimulate and support initiatives on an ongoing basis in partnership with key organisations at national level as well as at local level. It will focus on the principal strands in our society, for example, public education, media and communications, statutory authorities, community and local development, the workplace, the Garda Síochána, political parties, sporting bodies and religious organisations. A number of activities will be arranged at national and local level around key anchor events each year such as the International day against racism on 21 March and the anti-racist workplace week in the first week in November.

The core messages of the programme are: Ireland is increasingly a multicultural society which is a strength; racism is a denial of human rights; minority ethnic groups are a positive and integral part of Irish society; racism is a specific form of discrimination; racism is against the law; inward migration is not the cause of racism; we all have a responsibility to tackle racism; Irish people have been victims of racism themselves; and in celebrating difference we should be open to the benefits of cultural diversity.

The objectives of the programme are twofold, i.e. to combat racism and to inform people about racism. These objectives are encapsulated neatly in the "KNOW RACISM" logo of the programme. Spreading this message through national advertising campaigns along with the nine core messages of the programme will be a significant element of the programme in the months ahead. The steering group has agreed plans to involve the programme in joint ventures with statutory, media, sporting and religious organisations as another strategy for spreading these messages. An independent website has also been established by the steering group to enhance access to updated information about the awareness programme.
One of the first tasks of the steering group was to commission a researcher to gather information on existing research into attitudes and opinions on racism and minority groups. A report on the research was completed in September and the steering group is currently considering its recommendations, particularly, with regard to the need for further surveys.
The involvement of local communities is an important component of the programme. Last May, the steering group launched two grant schemes to assist community groups, including minority ethnic groups, and non-government organisations with anti-racism awareness initiatives. A total of £200,000 was paid out from the schemes to a total of 134 community groups and organisations in some 23 counties. A second round of grant schemes was launched under the programme earlier this month for similar awareness initiatives. In the second round, the steering group will welcome, particularly, projects which focus on 21 March, international day against racism, or on activities involving young people, or education related activities. The closing date for the second round is 15 November.
The steering group is examining a number of proposals for larger partnership ventures at national level. Its first major partnership initiative was its participation in the anti-racist workplace week which took place last week 5-9 November. The anti-racist workplace week is organised by the equality authority in partnership with IBEC, ICTU and the Construction Industry Federation. Funding of £150,000 was provided from the awareness programme for national advertising campaigns to accompany the workplace week.
The steering group would like to involve everybody in the awareness programme. The group is finalising the text of a leaflet, entitled "What you can do", which it is planning to send to every household in the country early next year. The leaflet will advise each person, on what he or she, as an individual, can do to reject racism. The steering group will publish a report on its progress in implementing the programme at the end of each year.