Is Racism a Big Problem Here?

International reporting on Northern Ireland often focuses on the negative and it is commonly said that racism is just another way of expressing violence following decades of internal conflict. Racism in Ireland is not new but it probably manifests itself more painfully today because there are larger numbers of newcomers from other national and ethnic backgrounds. Some people have found the sudden change difficult and racist attitudes thrive where there are widely held negative stereotypes and myths about immigrants. Surveys of Attitudes reveal something of this underlying thinking.

Negative attitudes in the wider community influence individuals who act out their prejudices through aggressive actions. There have been some very high profile incidents recently, such as the attacks on Roma in Belfast in 2009 that made national and international headline news. The day-to-day experiences of migrants and resident minority-ethnic people should disturb us equally. The number of incidents recorded in PSNI statistics gives an idea of the scale of racial harassment although many people choose not to report what has happened.

There have been concerns about Far Right groups organising here but this will only be a problem if racist attitudes are allowed to thrive in the wider community.