3 July 1997 Edition

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Report reveals anti-Irish discrimination

Research into discrimination towards the Irish in Britain has revealed evidence of inequality, discrimination and injustice, and a ``powerful sense of hurt and unjustified exclusion from an equal place in British society''.

The report, called `Discrimination and the Irish in Britain', highlights a failure at official levels and in general terms, to accept the difficulties Irish people have experienced in Britain, which has affected many aspects of their lives, including access to employment, housing, benefits, and hostility from police and neighbours.

The report's authors argue the dilemma for Irish residents is that ``they are not seen as sufficiently different for this racism to be acknowledged and afforded some measure of protection.''

They recommend that Irish be made a distinct category in monitoring literature and on the 2001 census, and for government, public, statutory, voluntary sector bodies and employers to enhance their equal opportunity practices and cultural awareness of the needs of Irish people as an ethnic minority, and the need to tackle discrimatory attitudes in the criminal justice and police system, and advise the media against negative stereotyping.

It revealed much abuse goes unreported and unrecognised, but establishes that respondents are convinced this negative stereotyping does have a serious impact on their lives, including colleagues assumptions about their sympathy for the IRA, anti-Irish humour, and a wide belief that failure to gain promotion was attributed to employer's perceptions of their Irish origins. The Commission for Racial Equality, which commissioned the research, has endorsed the authors' recommendations, and urged employers and service providers to ensure their equal opportunity policies include non-discrimination policies towards people of Irish origin.

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