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News : Irish Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM

Warning in aftermath of Lisbon Treaty poll and current less affluent times, "great danger that racist incidents will increase"
By Finfacts Team
Jun 20, 2008 - 5:47:43 AM

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Lucy Gaffney Chair of the National Action Plan Against Racism and Chairperson of the Denis O'Brien controlled media group Communicorp

Speaking on the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2008 Awards in central Dublin on Thursday, Lucy Gaffney, Chair of the National Action Plan Against Racism, said that the revelation that immigration was a contributory factor towards the Lisbon Treaty No vote in last week’s referendum demonstrates the major challenge of confronting and eliminating racism in modern Ireland. She warned of that in "these less affluent times, there is a great danger that racist incidents will increase."

She also called on all Government Departments to fulfill their commitments under the National Action Plan Against Racism before the Plan concludes at the end of 2008.

An unpublished Eurobarometer survey, the results of which were given to EU foreign ministers at their monthly meeting in Luxembourg, last Monday, showed that almost three-quarters of people who voted 'No' in the Lisbon Treaty referendum mistakenly believed the pact could be easily renegotiated.

The poll of 2,000 voters found:

  • Young people voted "No" by a margin of two to one.

  • The vast majority of women voted "No".

  • A large number of people who do not vote in general elections voted.

  • People who did not understand the treaty voted "No".

  • The huge influx of immigrants into the country was a factor in the "No" vote.

  • More than 70% of "No" voters thought a second treaty would be negotiated.

Gaffney commented on Thursday,“This evening’s Awards demonstrate the important contribution many refugees and asylum seekers make to their local communities and to Irish society in general. These are hardworking people who have come to Ireland for a better life.

“Their efforts make Ireland a culturally richer and more diverse country and they deserve all the recognition they are getting this evening.

“However, in these less affluent times, there is a great danger that racist incidents will increase

“Indeed, a major survey of voters conducted by the European Commission immediately after last week’s Lisbon Treaty revealed that a significant number of those who voted No did so in protest at the large scale immigration into the country in recent years.

“For all of us who are active in the area of integration, anti-racism and multiculturalism this is extremely worrying.

“Clearly we all still have a major job to do in making Ireland a more welcome place for those who want to come here and work and who subsequently live and raise families in local communities.

“The Government’s approach to integration and diversity management has been rightly lauded in recent times. The establishment last year of the office of the Minister for Integration is a fine example of its commitment.

“However as the Lisbon outcome reveals, addressing the fears of the local community with regards to immigration remains a major challenge. I would urge Government not to take its eye off the ball and confront many of the major issues that prevent us from creating a better environment for immigrant and local community alike.

“This involves speeding-up the implementation of all actions to be implemented by various Government Departments under the National Action Plan Against Racism before the Plan concludes its work at the end of this year.

“It also means directly addressing issues such as the wearing of the hijab by schoolchildren that has generated much debate in recent months.

“Measures such as these will complement the hard work being done on the ground by those we are acknowledging in the Refugee Day Awards this evening and will help create a more tolerant and open modern Ireland.”

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