It is long recognised that violent extremism, whatever the motivation, is a threat to democracy. Ireland, along with its European partners, is working to ensure that the developing threat of right-wing extremism remains under continuous review at European level. Most recently I, along with my EU colleagues, met in the Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Council formation to have a policy discussion on right-wing violent extremism and terrorism. In particular, we discussed the rise in radical propaganda messages which have contributed to a rise of the risks associated with right-wing extremism.
While it is not the practice to comment in detail on security matters, I can inform the Deputy that the security services here in Ireland are vigilant in this regard. The threat level, including any emerging threats, is kept under constant review by An Garda Síochána in consultation with the Defence Forces, utilising all of the expertise available and working continually with their EU and international counterparts to identify and manage threats.
As the Deputy will also be aware, last month the Garda Commissioner and Minister of State David Stanton launched the new Garda Síochána Diversity and Integration Strategy, 2019 – 2021. The three year programme has a significant focus on enhancing the identification, reporting, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. This Strategy recognises the existing and emerging diverse composition of our communities, and aims to protect all minorities and diverse groups in society and sets out a working definition of hate crime in line with best international practice and the McPherson "perception based test”. My Department is currently engaged in a wide-ranging public consultation on the incitement to hatred legislation with a view to bringing forward amendments in the context of hate crime legislation early next year.
A new Anti-Racism Committee will also shortly be established, with a mandate to examine what needs to be done by public sector bodies as well as the wider community to challenge racism.
In relation to direct provision, the reception system for international protection applicants operates under a whole-of-Government approach with a view to ensuring the best outcomes for residents as well as for local communities. It is not just a question of providing accommodation for vulnerable people. It is a suite of services provided by a number of Government Departments including Health; Education and Skills; and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. There has been much commentary in recent weeks about the system. There has been debate too, about the location of centres, which I welcome. However, I would appeal for it to be thoughtful, respectful and factual. As I mentioned in my statement to this House last Wednesday night, far-right anti-immigrant activists are paying close attention, seeking out opportunities to incite fear and hatred – as far-right groups have done throughout history. It is incumbent on all those of us in public life to demonstrate real support for asylum seekers and refugees and for the local communities who welcome them.