Treated Differently: Evidence of racism and discrimination from a local perspective (2013)

This document sheds light on the prevalence and impact of racism experienced by immigrants in Irish society. It emphasises the need for leadership and action to combat racism and promote social cohesion in Limerick and beyond


Recent surveys, including this report, have documented worrying levels of experiences of racism by immigrants living in Irish society. There is an urgent need to take racism seriously in Ireland. It is now five years since the shutting down of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI). There is clearly a policy and leadership vacuum that is failing communities in Limerick and elsewhere. This report documents experiences of racism in Limerick and the human cost of these. The findings are similar to those of research undertaken in other parts of the country which have documented experiences of racist violence, harassment and anti-social behaviour along with experiences of discrimination. One of the striking findings of ‘Treated Differently?’ is the belief held by many victims of racist incidents that they will not be listened to if they attempt to report their experiences. Another is that for some people living in Ireland experiences of racism are part of everyday life.

It is crucial that the experiences of racism documented in this report are taken seriously. Racism blights lives and prevents people from reaching their full potential. Communities around Ireland have been irreversibly changed by immigration. Leadership against racism has a crucial role to play in securing future social cohesion. Integration and social inclusion takes place in specific communities and localities or not at all. In a context of inadequate leadership from above, efforts by community organisations such as Doras Luimní to bring about positive change at a local level are all the more important. But it should not have to be so hard. Policy makers and political leaders, government and service providers need to acknowledge and address racism in Ireland.

Executive Summary

The prevalence of racism and discrimination in Ireland is unknown. Incomplete evidence from crime statistics, frontline agencies, and previous research is insufficient to understand the nature and extent of the problem and to plan and develop appropriate responses and prevention strategies. In order to address this void in the Limerick region, Doras Luimní commissioned Dr. Patricia Kennedy, School of Applied Social Science; UCD to undertake a study which starts the process of documenting people’s experiences in order to address the lacuna at the local level. The purpose of the study was to explore the occurrence of various forms of racism, to understand where it occurs, who experiences it, and who the perpetrators are. Additionally the study sought to establish if racist incidents are reported, if so to whom and if not what are the barriers to reporting.

This study provides evidence of and illustrates some basic suppositions regarding the existence and prevalence of racism and discrimination in Limerick which had previously been based on anecdotal evidence. Racism takes various guises, is perpetrated by a wide range of people and occurs in a wide variety of settings. Victims and witnesses are slow to report because they are unsure of where to report, cannot identify the perpetrator and in some cases feel too vulnerable to report.

The evidence gathered in this research presents a local perspective on racism and discrimination, characterised by the following features:

  • Racism occurs in public and private locations
  • Men, women and children are perpetrators of racism
  • Men, women and children are victims of racism
  • Racism may take the form of physical or verbal hostility or aggression, exclusion from or denial of services and other actions/inactions
  • Institutional racism is a feature of services across a wide spectrum
  • Racism has serious consequences for individual victims and society as a whole
  • Racism is under-reported.