Knowing your Rights
A 2020 ESRI Report indicated that there was a gap between what people say publicly about their attitudes to minority groups in Ireland and what they are prepared to say when afforded anonymity. The study found that 66 per cent of people openly support more Black people coming to Ireland when asked the question directly, however, this decreases to 51 per cent when respondents were afforded anonymity. Fewer respondents (59 per cent) openly supported more Muslim immigration when asked directly, with a smaller decrease to 53 per cent when afforded anonymity.
The evidence produced by both the CSO and the ESRI/IHREC report suggests that equality legislation is not having the desired effect of combatting inequality and discrimination and that, even as recently as 2019, these issues affected 636,000 people living in Ireland. Ireland has experienced profound societal changes since the introduction of the first piece of equality legislation, this review presents a timely opportunity to reflect that.
The same report from the CSO indicated that nearly one in eight (11.8 per cent) people aged 18+, including those who had not experienced discrimination, had no knowledge or understanding of their rights under the Irish equality legislation, compared to 56.8 per cent who had a ‘moderate understanding’ of their rights and 31.4 per cent who had a ‘good understanding’.
It would appear that a person’s knowledge of their rights increases with their experience of discrimination, with almost one in three people who had experienced discrimination (32.3 per cent) having a ‘very good understanding’ of their rights. Educational attainment also plays a role here, with 46.3 per cent of people with a third level education and 35.2 per cent of persons with a post-Leaving Certificate education having the greatest understanding of their rights.
Of concern is that of those who experienced some form of discrimination and who reported having a very good understanding of their rights, 62.3 per cent took no action in respect of their experience of discrimination, while just 27.1 per cent took some form of verbal action.
It is clear that more is needed to raise awareness among the general population of the equality legislation, not just with those who are most at risk of experiencing discrimination, but also those who are at risk of perpetrating it. However, with just 3 per cent of the people who experienced discrimination making an official complaint, and just 1.7 per cent contacting the Gardaí, raising awareness of the legislation alone may not result in any greater use of the legislation to combat discrimination.
Social Justice Ireland urges Government to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.