Anti-Irish racism rears its ugly head again


A NEW report on hate crime in Scotland has been published at a time when high profile examples of anti-Irish racism are being uncovered.

Footballers James McClean and Shane Duffy have been subject to vile anti-Irish racism online, an attacker avoided prison after being found guilty of head butting a Celtic supporter onto the track on Glasgow’s Subway, Pontins holiday camps published a blacklist of ‘undesirable’ Irish surnames and graffiti threatening ‘taigs’ has been plastered in Glasgow, Coatbridge and Ayrshire.

Such examples highlight the ongoing presence of widespread racism against the Irish community and the frequent misdiagnosis of the problem as ‘sectarianism.’

Statistics and incidents
The publication of the hate crime statistics, meanwhile, demonstrated that around 40 per cent of the more than 500 religiously aggravated hate crimes recorded in Scotland were carried out against the Catholic community, statistics which are highly likely to include incidents of anti-Irish racism and reflect the conflation of anti-Irish racism with anti-Catholic bigotry.

Such statistics demonstrate the disproportionate presence as victims of hate crime for a community that numbers just 15 per cent of the population.

The results were published after changes to the way hate crimes are recorded in Scotland and following efforts by equality campaigners to ensure that accurate reporting is done. The current method of reporting is an incomplete snapshot of the situation which observers nevertheless regard as sufficient for assessing the problem as Police Scotland and authorities move towards full reporting of this type of hate crime.

Hate crime statistics also include an increase in the recording of anti-Irish racism on previous years, which might suggest that a change in attitude is beginning to filter through to police officers as they correctly identify and record incidences of anti-Irish racism.

The ongoing assessment of hate crime statistics will be aided in future by full reporting of disaggregated statistics in future years, following a the publication of a refreshed report on a similar basis to the most recent publication for the reporting year 2020-2021. Such reporting will be vital to assess the impact of hate crime on communities such as Scotland’s Irish, with clear examples of the targeting against this group continuing to come to light.

One of the most clear examples was the incident at the Margaret Skinnider Centre in Coatbridge, which saw a masked individual placing stickers declaring ‘All Taigs Are Targets,’ complete with rifle sights, on the building (above). The same stickers have also appeared in locations in Ayrshire. A large piece of graffiti also appeared under Glasgow’s Kingston Bridge bearing the slogan ‘Kill All Taigs,’ with countless smaller examples also appearing around the city.

With a Glasgow City Council spokesperson reacting to the graffiti as ‘sectarian’ it highlights the need for such incidents to be correctly identified as anti-Irish by authorities and presented in full reports of hate crime statistics in order to accurately assess the extent of the problem in Scotland.

Reacting to the publication of the report, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell spoke of the need to increase awareness of hate crime in Scotland and effectively tackle it and provide support to those communities affected by it.

“Scotland is an inclusive and tolerant nation, but we are not immune from the constant threat that prejudice and intolerance can bring to our society,” she said. “Given the impact it has on individuals and communities it is important that everybody plays their part to challenge it at all times.

“Hate Crime legislation is only part of our wider programme of work to tackle hate crime and build connected communities. In June 2017, we published the Tackling Prejudice and Building Connected Communities Action Plan and established an action group, which I chair, to take this forward. The key priorities identified by the group are raising awareness of what hate crime is, the impact that it has on individuals and communities and to encourage reporting.

“The action group has also played a key role in ensuring there is better evidence and data around hate incidents and crime and I am grateful for their continued support. This report helps us to understand the key characteristics of both victims and perpetrators and reflects the importance of reporting incidents so that we can best support our communities in Scotland. The report will be instrumental in informing our work as we look to refresh our action plan later this year.”

As Scotland works to transform its approach and understanding of hate crime, it is vital that anti-Irish racism is properly understood and recorded in order to ensure that the Irish community is not left behind. With community sources reporting a continued reluctance from the Scottish Government to engage effectively with both the Irish community and its concerns, much work remains to be done in ensuing that Scotland’s Irish receive the same focus which is planned for other groups.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf outlined the commitment of the government to protecting communities—a goal which will require genuine engagement with the Irish community.

“As elected representatives, we can help ensure Scotland is a place where there is zero tolerance of hate crime. The legislation currently before Parliament makes clear that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated—and will ensure Scotland’s justice system can bring perpetrators to account and provide protection for individuals and communities harmed by hate crimes.”