This working paper attempts to gain a better understanding of the causes of racism within Northern Ireland. In order to do this effectively, it is first necessary to look at the diverse meaning of racism as well as providing statistics to show that racism is a continuing problem within contemporary society. These statistics alone pose many problems through their collection and their questionable inability of response by the police and the criminal justice system (Haughey 2012). Policies and strategies that are put in place to tackle racist incidents within the state institutions and individuals will also be addressed. Theoretical perspectives will be drew upon in order to understand the causes for racism within Northern Ireland.
In 2004, Northern Ireland was classified as the ‘race hate capital of Europe’ (Haughey 2012: 1). This goes hand in hand with previous research which looked at minority ethnic people living in Northern Ireland and found that almost half (44%) had experience verbal abuse with just under a third (29%) have experienced criminal damage to their property (Connolly and Keenan 2001). It is thus clear that Northern Irish society is racist and it can be argued that this is due to nationalism which is an anxious culture that fears the unknown as threat is experienced (Abercrombie and Warde 1988).
The concept of race is controversial as it is a diverse term that is socially constructed and holds various meanings that can change from time and place. The general agreement of when this term came into existence is from the mid to late eighteenth century (Bulmer and Solomos 1999). Phizacklea and Miles would define race as a system of shared beliefs held by it’s members which identify themselves in terms of biology or any other natural characteristic they deem to possess (Cited in Husband 1982). Whilst Garner would go on to say that racism is a form of discrimination that occurs on the grounds of an individuals race due to power relationships and ideologies (Garner 2010). There are many forms of racism, from verbal abuse to criminal damage of property and physical abuse. Research suggests that incidents are usually random and can occur at any time or place resulting in a tendency for ethnic minorities to feel fearful and socially isolated (Connolly and Kennan 2001). In order for racism to be monitored in Northern Ireland, the Home Office categorise racism as a hate crime which they define as, ‘any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’ (Home Office 2013). It is important to note here that the Republic of Ireland do not provide a definition of hate crime therefore it goes un- monitored (Braniff 2013).
According to the PSNI recorded incidents, racism has increased in Northern Ireland from 41 incidents in 1996, to 990 in 2009. However, a slight decline was revealed in 2011 as recorded incidents fell to 842. It has been suggested that this rise in race- hate crime is due to people being more willing to report, better recording by the police, the change in definition of racism following the incident of Steven Lawrence and the actual increase in racist incidents (Haughey 2012). On the other hand however, the under- reporting of hate crime poses one of the greatest challenges that the government face (Fergus 2010). It is estimated that 95% of race- hate crime goes under- reported due to various factors, such as; fears of retaliation, the view that there is no point reporting as there will be nothing done, poor experiences and lack of trust concerning the police (Haughey 2012).
In relation to police response to hate crime, it can be argued to be inadequate concerning; investigation, support...