The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) met in Geneva to hear Ireland’s report on racism from 22-23 February.
With the election only days away at the time, the Committee commended the commitment of political parties to the ENAR Ireland Anti Racism Political Protocol, although it was pointed out that this should not lead to complacency. Coming shortly after the general election, the Committee’s concluding observations may play a crucial role is setting out a mandate for the new government on anti racism.
ENAR Ireland actively worked to ensure that the 2011 General Election Campaign was conducted in a manner that does not perpetuate or incite racism.
To support this effort ENAR Ireland updated and circulated the Anti Racism Election Protocol first developed in 2001 by NCCRI.
The Anti Racism Election Protocol has played an important role since 2001 in ensuring that elections have been conducted in such a way that they do not incite hatred or prejudice on the grounds of ‘race’, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin, religious belief and membership of the Traveller Community. Political parties that have already endorsed the Protocol include Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Green Party, Labour Party, Libertas, People before Profit, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, Workers’ Party.
To date in Ireland, election campaigners have generally avoided using the ‘race card’; however, we cannot take this for granted. Nor is the picture at all perfect. Research by Doras Luimni in Limerick for example, reveals that political representatives on both the left and right were found to commonly address the issue of immigration in the media as a social problem. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI|) research suggests hidden messages that equality is not important and racism is not a significant issue. This protocol continued to be quite successful in the 2011 general election campaign but it should be noted that ENAR Ireland is following up on a number of statements brought to their attention by concerned citizens during the course of the campaign.
The European Network Against Racism notes a rise in right wing extremism across Europe and a general trend towards higher levels of racism. There is now a far right Party active in the European Parliament. The Party was established in 2007; in the same year the German Presidency was working to bring in EU legislation to tackle the rise of extremism across Europe.
Keeping and removing racism from politics requires commitment on the part of politicians, political parties and civil society alike. Ireland is facing a difficult challenge at this time. Political leadership has never been so important, in realising rights as well as maintaining solidarity and harmony between all members of society irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality or residency status.
Having secured commitment from political parties, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland also invited individual candidates to sign the Protocol as a public declaration of their own support for the Protocol and its message. We believe that in taking this action candidates will be reminded of the necessity to uphold the commitment made by their political parties. Independents are also strongly encouraged to sign up. This call was well received and signed declarations and e-mails flooded in.
 The Protocol was originally developed by National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) in partnership with political parties. The NCCRI was closed in December 2008.