The Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice) Bill 2016 aims to make offences committed with prejudice relating to the race, colour or ethnic origin, a disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity to be illegal.
The Bill to be put to the floor while extremely important has omitted Travellers. Several opposition TDs have already made their grievances against the bill known. Sinn Fein’s Jonathan O’Brien and AAA-PBP Brid Smith opposed the Bill from proceeding.
Fianna Fail TD from Kildare South, Fiona O’Loughlin said, “This Bill essentially seeks to tackle hate crimes in an effective and robust manner. Under this Bill, if someone is convicted of an offence that is aggravated by prejudice or hatred, then this must be taken into account when sentencing.”
The Bill was discussed on Tuesday 4th October in the Dail and is to be put to a vote on Thursday 6th October. There is still scope for the Bill to be changed but to do so will involve a lot of lobbying over the coming 24 hours.
Travellers’ Voice caught up with Sinn Fein’s Jonathan O’Brien today to ask him about his reservations again the Bill. Firstly he told us, “It will be passed, as Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour have indicated that they support the bill, however Sinn Fein and a few others will be voting against it. The Deputy that proposed it said that it could be amended at Committee stage”. Jonathan said that this was not good enough, that the fact that they did not include it in the first place shows where the Government’s mind-set is at!
What can activists and concerned citizens do to raise their concerns?
“There needs to be, maybe an online campaign, email campaign or members of the community calling in to see their local TDs over the next couple of weeks asking that when it is debated that it is considered at committee stage that there would be an amendment to recognise Travellers as a separate ethnic group. The difficulty with that is you’re going to need a separate piece of legislation for that bill to happen”.
In closing, Jonathan stated, “I think there’s a slow momentum towards passing legislation recognising the Traveller Community as an ethnic minority, but it’s very slow. This Dail is completely different make up to the last Dail when we did have a Bill before us to give Travellers Ethnic Minority status, and that was overwhelmingly defeated but the make-up of this Dail is different so I think there will be more voices in the chamber who are not afraid to speak up on behalf of the Traveller Community”.
It seems to be the case that the minds that needs to be changed are those that lie with Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. It’s crucial that your voice is heard and recognised so if you, like many others have a gripe with this Bill and want to get a change made then contact your local TD. We will keep you updated on the matter as new information comes to light.
By John Madden