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Three in Five TDs Met Racist Views – Survey

Resource type: News

Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

By Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent

Three in every five of the TDs responding to a survey carried out by a professional polling company said they had encountered racist sentiments while canvassing in last year’s general election.

More than a third of the TDs surveyed by Millward Brown Lansdowne said speaking out in favour of immigrant rights would have a negative effect on their constituency support.

All but one of the Dáil’s 166 members were contacted last June and July, with 74 of them, from all sides of the House, agreeing to take part in the survey.

Only 30 per cent of respondents said they had spoken in the Dáil about immigrant or refugee rights. A total of 41 per cent agreed issues affecting asylum seekers were “not covered positively” in the news media.

Among those surveyed, 70 per cent said Ireland’s commitment to taking in 200 recognised refugees for resettlement every year was “just about right”.

Asked if speaking out in favour of immigrant rights would have a positive or negative impact on their support at constituency level, only three TDs, or 4 per cent, said “positive”, 36 per cent replied “negative” and 58 per cent said it would make no difference.

Presenting the survey at Leinster House, the chief executive of the Dublin-based Integration Centre said that, as had been the case previously, there should be a designated minister of state for integration.

“At the moment it is spread far too wide, across too many departments,” Killian Forde said.

He also called for legislation to make racism “an aggravating factor” in sentencing, in order to send out a message that this kind of behaviour was unacceptable.

Hosting the press conference, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the Incitement to Hatred Act had proven “completely useless”.

Recalling the atmosphere at the time of the Citizenship Referendum in 2004, he said that regardless of the rights and wrongs of the issue, it had “aroused some pretty poisonous attitudes” among the electorate.

“At that stage, many of us decided that if these attitudes were going to be overcome, they had to be confronted,” he said.

Paul Moran of Millward Brown Lansdowne said: “The reasons people didn’t participate [in the survey] were generally a refusal on principle – they don’t do surveys – as opposed to anything to do with this specific survey.”

Among the TDs attending the press conference were Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne and Bernard Durkan, Labour’s Eric Byrne and Robert Dowds and Independents Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty.

Integration Centre is an Atlantic grantee.