Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD speaks out against Racism

Shatter says “do not tolerate intolerance”

(Speech delivered by Minister for Justice & Defence Alan Shatter TD at the Creative Competition Awards Ceremony on April 10th at the AVIVA stadium.

Good afternoon everyone.

I want to begin by thanking Garret Mullan of Show Racism the Red Card for inviting me here today and providing me with the opportunity to view the excellent work on display. I am delighted to be involved in such an important initiative.

I also want to acknowledge the host of very talented young people here this afternoon. Regardless of the outcome today, you are all entitled to feel proud of your hard work and achievements. I know that some of you have travelled long distances to be here today which clearly demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment to this project.

I would also like to thank the sports men and women who have attended and participated today – Kevin, Jason, Cliodhna, Indira, Eoin and Philip – you are great role models for the young people here and your presence helps to publicise this project.

The high quality of the entries received in this project tells us that creativity is alive and well and shows that there is a wealth of talent to be harnessed in our schools and young communities all around the country. I would particularly like to commend the dedication of all the teachers and others who have worked so hard to assist you all in preparing for today’s event. I hope you all enjoyed the experience of planning and working on your projects.

Show Racism the Red Card has been operating here in Ireland since 2006 and I am pleased that my Department has been in a position to provide funding to assist in the organisation of this very worthwhile competition. It is especially pleasing to note that the numbers participating in the competition have increased year on year with 140 schools and youth services taking part this year.

I think it is fair to say that, in general, Irish people have been warm and welcoming to the large number of EU and non-EU residents who have now made Ireland their home. We have, so far, avoided the extreme racial tensions that have emerged in other countries. However, we must not become complacent and we must be alert to the potential danger of the emergence of racial discord. That is why your participation in projects such as this is so important, in that it harnesses your talent and enthusiasm to demonstrate that, as a society, we will not tolerate racism in any form whether it is in sport, in our schools, in places of employment or in the social arena.

Raising awareness among you, our young people, in our schools, communities, sporting and social organisations is extremely important. You all know that racism has no place in Ireland or in any country or society.

From your work on the projects that brought you all here today, you will have learned more about the affect racism can have on individuals and communities. You will be aware that racism denies people their basic human rights, dignity and respect. It is a complex issue and can be manifested in a number of ways ranging from acts of snubbing, bullying and exclusion through to discrimination, stereotyping, institutional or systemic racism, to acts of verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and violence. It is up to each and every one of us to play our part in confronting racism and in ensuring that we do not support or condone it in our schools and communities.

My Department, through the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration, has a cross-Departmental mandate to develop, lead and co-ordinate integration policy across other Government Departments, agencies and services. However, for integration to be really effective there must be a “grass roots” approach. By that I mean, that integration policies and practices must be pursued in the community, in the home, in the workplace and in the schools. That is why your participation in this competition is particularly welcome as it brings awareness of the need for tolerance into our schools and from there to homes and to the wider community. It is important that you pass on the lessons you have learned through your participation in this project to the people that you meet as you go about your daily lives. My one simple message is, do not tolerate intolerance. We should celebrate difference, not target or discriminate against any individual perceived to be different.

Most of you will be aware that, on the 21st of March last – which was the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – the world commemorated an event that took place in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960 where Police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration against racially discriminating laws in Sharpeville. By designating a day to commemorate this horrific event, attention is regularly focussed on the need to fight against racial discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Racism and Sport”. This theme, which was chosen by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, serves to highlight the problem of racism in sports as well as raising awareness of the role sports can play in combating racism and racial discrimination.

On any given weekend throughout the country it is clear to the observer that sport plays a huge part in peoples lives, including in the lives of the new migrant communities in Ireland. The composition of local soccer clubs, GAA clubs, basketball clubs and others shows the great diversity of cultures of both, young and old, coming together to share in the enjoyment of sport and, of course, in the hope of winning a trophy or two to share with the wider community.

Given the importance of sport in bringing communities together, my Department has provided funding to major national sporting organisations to assist them in integrating migrants into their activities. This opens up pathways to the involvement of newcomers in Irish society. Over the last five years, the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration has provided funding of almost 13 million euro for integration purposes. Almost 2 million of this sum was provided to national sporting organisations.

Finally, I would like to say that, it appears to me that the judges had a very difficult job in choosing the winners given the excellent standard of the entries. It is clear that a huge effort was put into the work and the entries were created with great enthusiasm. I hope that what you have learned through your participation in this competition about the dangers of racism and the devastation it can cause to individuals will be carried with you into the future. Again, congratulations to all who took part in the project.

Thank you.

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