Extreme hate groups and their impact on inclusion in our communities

Over the past few months, my role as spokesperson with Fingal Communities Against Racism has been particularly focused on sharing what we know about the attraction of conspiracy theories, online anti-mask and anti-lockdown groups, and the role of extreme hate groups in Ireland and abroad in driving division in our communities.

Fingal Communities Against Racism was set up in autumn 2019 to counter a far-right election campaign in the region, and drive out the groups who were attempting to use the region to create anti-immigration and white nationalist narratives about our towns. You can read more about our work at www.fingaltogether.ie

Since January 2021, I’ve spoken to a number of media outlets about our work to recognise and counter those movements through supporting people in every community to talk with those attracted to those ideas and reduce the likelihood of friends and family becoming attached to movements, events and ideas pushed by extreme hate groups.

Over 9,000 searches relating to far-right topics made by Irish people in past six months – The Irish Examiner https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40237838.html



Conversations on Women’s Leadership – Launched! #IWD2021


To celebrate International Women’s Day here in Fingal, and the incredible contribution women make to the development of  our region, Fingal County Council Community Development Office are recognising and supporting women’s leadership through conversations about the challenges and opportunities women experience in setting out to improve our communities.

This week on behalf of Fingal County Council Community Development Office, I’m hosting a series of online conversations with women active in leadership in our area. I am joined by Geraldine Rooney, of the Centre for Independent Living Blanchardstown, Ayodele Yusuf, of Balbriggan Integration Forum, Bridie O’Reilly of the Fingal Older People’s Council, Shelly Gaynor, of the Independent Living Movement Ireland, and Catherine Joyce of Blanchardstown Traveller Development Group. I also talk to Anne Marie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, who is Fingal’s first woman in that role.

Together we talk about the challenges facing women getting started in community action, the kinds of problem-solving leadership that women are doing here in Fingal, and how that involvement in community has changed their lives and that of the community around them. Internationally, women are much less likely to describe themselves as being leaders, and much more likely to describe themselves as doing leadership, and that’s true too for our interviewees this week.

With decades of voluntary and professional work in the community between them, advocating for opportunities, resources, justice and social change, they emphasise the importance of seeing community leadership as a shared activity. You will hear their advice on building networks of support, being recognised for your work, the opportunities that open up through starting small, and ways of scaling up small community actions to more influential means of affecting decision making and policy across Fingal.

Geraldine Rooney talks to us about how her desire to see small changes led to a big change in direction for her, developing her skills and learning to see the bigger picture so that she could commit herself to building something much larger and effective than she had imagined at the start. We talk too about how women often feel too unskilled for community leadership when they are younger, but struggle with the silencing of older women’s voices when they become active later on. Developing younger women in community leadership skills is key, but so is recognising the experiences of older women who have come to community action after raising their families or juggling early careers, because they bring a lifetime of relevant skills with them. Their voice needs to be heard at decision-making tables.

Bridie O’Reilly tells us about how she learned the value of building a network of support for your leadership work and taking credit for your own work, so that you have the recognition and the resources to build on what you have achieved and leverage that value for wider influence to improve your community. She shares her experiences of community action as a younger woman, determined to build pride amongst young people in their area and in themselves, and more recently in her retirement as she has taken on the challenge of building a strong network to advocate for and with older people who are isolated from the wider community. In telling these stories, she shows us the way that opportunities come up in different times of our lives for us to build community solidarity and support. Not all of the projects we are involved in last for ever, but leadership is about filling the gap that’s there now, and creating collective responses that will positively change how we relate to and support one another.

Ayo Yusuf talks to us about the need for persistence in community action, asking people to take ownership of their ideas to improve their communities and be creative with those. Leadership is something anyone can do, no matter their starting point, and it’s a skill you learn the more involvement you have in your community. Learning to work with people is key, as everyone has different motivations and capacity to commit themselves to action. Getting discouraged is a common experience, but you can learn to move past that, finding the people around you who share your passion for your community and equally determined to get things done.

Catherine Joyce asks what we can do to improve coalition building between women leaders in different areas and around different issues, so that we can advocate together for and with one another in the different spaces we move in. She points out that women are always involved in problem-solving in local communities, around employment, schools, family supports, and raises the excellent point that we very often ask women to conform to an abstract idea of leadership, rather than looking at where community leadership is already embedded in women’s activities, and recognising and supporting that properly.

Shelly Gaynor shows us what self-advocacy can become, tracking the journey from self-advocate to advocate for others, and how we can better supported disabled women in participation and leadership in our community life. She highlights the value of getting involved young, and growing your experience and confidence as a leader.

And finally Anne Marie Farrelly talks to us about the ways in which women’s leadership contributes to the many aspects of community life we take for granted day-to-day, and how women’s voices can influence local decision-making. We talk about the changes that would make a big difference to those women who are already involved in community leadership and who would like to make bigger changes in our region for themselves and others

I’m very excited to hear and share their stories with you, and I hope you’ll join us through the week to meet and learn from 6  incredible women leading in community development in our region. We look forward to hearing about your experiences too, and your thoughts about how we can support women’s leadership in Fingal in future. Happy International Women’s Day from all of us to all of you.

Women in Community Leadership: Fingal County Council #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge

Fingal County Council International Women's Day 2021 #ChooseToChallenge

A Conversation on Women’s Leadership in the Community will celebrate women’s achievements and recognise challenges and opportunities that women experience when involved in community action.

Dr Lucy Michael will be joined in conversation by Geraldine Rooney, of the Fingal PPN and Centre for Independent Living Blanchardstown , Ayodele Yusuf, of Balbriggan Integration Forum, Bridie O’Reilly of the Fingal Older People’s Council, Shelly Gaynor, of the Independent Living Movement Ireland, Catherine Joyce of Blanchardstown Traveller Development Group and AnneMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council.

Please join them on celebrating International Women’s Day this 8th March. To register your interest and receive an invite to the launch click here https://form.jotform.com/210564851020041

The Premiere of our film with these amazing women will take place on Monday 8 March at 1pm on YouTube https://youtu.be/YpkfEVXLb7Y

Capacity-building on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

DPO Coalition UN CRPD Information Webinar – Jan 2021
This presentation is an opportunity to learn about CRPD and what it means for you. We also explain about how Ireland reports to the UN and how you can become involved in this process. This video and the webinar where the content was originally presented are part of a process to create a Shadow Report to the UN on CRPD by the Disabled Persons Coalition (DPO Coalition).

2020 in review

2020 number blocks become 2021

Doing a quick review of 2020, and wow! what a year it has been!

Our 2020 projects included:
– #Policing and racial profiling
– Algorithmic bias and racism in #recruitment
– Training employers and recruiters to address barriers for migrant women applicants
– Integration programme design and evaluation training with local authorities and civil society orgs
– The impact of digital skills on #refugee integration
– Labour market assessments for pathway refugees
– The impact of #Covid19 on local integration programmes
– Rights awareness for people in the #InternationalProtection Process
– Supporting advocacy by #Disabled Peoples’ Organisations
– Racist incident reporting analysis
– Hate crime and #hatespeech briefings ahead of the new legislation
– Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey analysis with reference to #BlackLivesMatter (launch Jan 2021!)

So many exciting and valuable projects, great co-investigators and co-authors, and much to look forward to in 2021.

We are so privileged to have worked for and with such amazing people this year, and look forward to sharing more of our work with you in 2021!

#inclusionanddiversity #inclusionmatters #equality #humanrights #diversity #inclusion

Eight New Commission Members Proposed for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

I am delighted to share the news today at last that I am one of 8 proposed appointments to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The list of nominees includes people I very much respect and look forward to learning from, and I am very pleased to be named amongst them.

Racism in Ireland is not ‘casual’.

I worry that the subject of much Irish media discussion of Black Lives Matter in Ireland, in reference to experiences of racism here,  has been described as ‘casual racism’ (e.g. @rteliveline). ‘Casual’ racism sounds not that bad to a person who has not experienced racism, when in fact it is hugely damaging to people to experience it every single day of their lives.

If you’ve experienced everyday racism, you’ll know that it can change the things you do everyday, how you get to school/work, where you shop, who you see, how you dress, how you speak. For kids AND adults, it can be deeply traumatic. 

Racism may be ‘everyday’, and it may not always involved physical violence, but the pain of these repeated experiences have been shown by science to be equivalent to physical injuries. That’s why they are so important to the people who experience them regularly.

Read more about the science of pain and racism here https://theconversation.com/does-racism-make-us-sick-63641

The produced tone of this media conversation as ‘casual racism’ is also dangerous because it denies the violence that goes on here in Ireland experienced by people too scared to describe it to journalists, too afraid to go to protests.

Working with the Irish Network Against Racism on the iReport.ie racist incident reporting system, I know firsthand how many people are afraid to tell their stories without anonymity. Those stories are told in the reports we publish regularly at https://inar.ie/ireport-reports-of-racism-in-ireland/

The violence that we report included 50 serious physical assaults last year, and that’s just the ones that were reported to iReport.ie in 2019. As well as that, there were sexual assaults, incidents of arson, threat to life, theft and extensive discrimination.

A high proportion of violence, as well as discrimination, is perpetrated by staff in public authorities including schools, councils and An Garda Siochana. Racial profiling and violence by Gardai are amongst the issues we have raised with the Policing Authority and with the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

And that’s before we get to the failures to protect victims of hate crime. Failures to address hate crime meant that the deaths of teenager Toyosi Shittabey and taxi-driver Moses Ebohon Ikpefua have not met justice. 

Other forms of violence and neglect that result in death are found in institutions that particularly affect migrants, including Direct Provision. Lack of care by the Irish state means the causes of a third of deaths in Direct Provision are not known at all, because no investigations are carried out. The @DeptJusticeIRL do not ask. irr.org.uk/news/deaths-in…

We know very few of the names of people who have died in Direct Provision, but those we do know about reinforce everything we know about this system and how it kills its residents.Emmanuel Marcel Landa, a Congolese former diplomat, died in Direct Provision of heart problems after a heart attack during deportation. He had been in DP for 7 years. #

Tahir Mahmood died, aged 48, leaving behind a wife and 2 kids in Direct Provision. He was known to need a diet adapted for a medical condition, and was not given it. He had been refused help to get appropriate access to hospital repeatedly during his time in DP. 

In 2016, a Korean woman took her own life in Direct Provision leaving behind a 5 year old son, believing he would be better off without her. We don’t know her name. 

Sylva Tukula, a transgender woman forced to live in a male-only Direct Provision centre, died and was buried without her friends being notified about the funeral. 

There are no names available for most of the people who have died in Direct Provision. We do not know how many of them died. We do know that many of the medical causes are likely to be directly related to the level of care they received in Direct Provision. 

Many of the protests this week referenced the American cases, but many Irish people still don’t know the names of the deceased Toyosi Shittabey, Moses Ebohon Ikpefua, Emanuel Marcel Landa, Tahir Mahmood or Sylva Tutula. 

But as well as the deceased we know of, there are thousands of victims of racist violence in Ireland who have no justice for what they experience because of ineffective policing of hate crime, fear of retaliation, and inadequate supports for victims. 

It’s not good enough to only talk about Black Lives in the USA without educating ourselves on what is happening here. Below are a few links if you’d like to learn more about the brutality of racism, including racist policing, in Ireland and across Europe.

Here’s the @INARIreland submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing which shows why hate crimes don’t get justice here in Ireland. inar.ie/wp-content/upl…

Here’s a report from @HHRGatUL on what happens to hate crimes if they get reported to the Gardai iccl.ie/wp-content/upl…

Here’s the @FacingFactsEU report on Ireland’s failure to address hate crime facingfacts.eu/final-ireland-…

Here’s the Irish civil society report to the @UN Committee on Racism which details racial profiling and its effects inar.ie/wp-content/upl…

Here’s a report from @ENAREurope that details institutional racism in the criminal justice system in Ireland enar-eu.org/IMG/pdf/shadow…

It didn’t just happen… police brutality and media reporting

Marcia Rigg’s brother Sean Rigg lost his life in the UK, after British police restrained him in a prone position for 7 minutes. She is fighting to shed light on police aggression in the UK. But the fight against racism is made more difficult if we continue to describe things as happening to Black people in police custody instead of being done to them.

Marcia Rigg’s brother Sean Rigg lost his life in the UK, after British police restrained him in a prone position for 7 minutes. She is fighting to shed light on police aggression in the UK. Her story was featured in Elle magazine this month.


But the fight against racism is made more difficult if we continue to describe things as happening to Black people in police custody instead of being done to them. 

Elle magazine has made significant efforts recently to give exposure to Black women and their experiences, but like many media outlets, the magazine demonstrates how ‘normal’ media discourses actually lend to the blaming of Black people for their oppression.

The leading sentence in this article says ‘an encounter with British police saw him restrained in a prone position for 7 minutes’. It should say ‘British police restrained him in a prone position for 7 minutes’. He did not restrain himself, and he certainly couldn’t have done so for a full 7 minutes.

Regardless of any cause for the encounter, Sean Rigg was not responsible for the brutality meted out by police in that encounter. To understand the scale of the task we are facing, we must use language that shows Black people are not responsible for the level of violence & control that they are subject to in the UK. Overpoliced & underprotected, still, in 2020.

It doesn’t matter why Sean Rigg was detained, but because it is such a common reason, I want to highlight it. The Guardian reported, “Rigg had been in the grip of a mental health crisis in 2008 and was behaving erratically, aiming karate kicks at passersby in south London, when police were called. He was restrained by officers and taken to Brixton police station, where he died.”

It is incredibly common for minorities experiencing mental health problems (themselves aggravated by racism) to be treated violently by police. Just take a look at the Institute of Race Relations reports on death in custody, and how many happen because of brutal treatment of people already in need of urgent medical care. http://www.irr.org.uk/research/deaths/

The officers were accused of failing to identify & treat Rigg as mentally ill, excessive use of restraint AND giving false evidence to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and an inquest into Rigg’s death. Despite ALL that, AND an inquest ruling in 2012 that the way he had been restrained “more than minimally” contributed to his death, Scotland Yard dismissed misconduct charges against 5 officers.

There are so many deaths in custody in the UK, the @guardian actually has a whole section dedicated to the subject. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/deathsincustody