Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Meenan believes there will be more instances of hate crimes in the county over the next number of years while senior Gardai in Louth say the issue was particularly prevalent in local schools in the last year.
Cllr Meenan has extensive experience in the area of cultural awareness, having worked as a project co-ordinator working with young people based in Muirhevnamor in Dundalk, as part of the Peace IV initiative. Speaking during Tuesday’s Joint Policing Committee meeting, he queried whether Gardai were recording levels of hate crime recorded or detected in the district.
“Last year, I was involved in the Peace 4 project – doing a lot of work on multi-culturalism,” he said. He added he had worked with traveller groups as well as members of the Muslim and Nigerian communities.
“I know there have been crimes recorded. I was made aware of serious issues of fighting and tensions between some of those groups in the last year. All issues were dealt with speedily and effectively.
“I think it will increase, sadly to say, over the next couple of years,” he continued.
In response, Dundalk Garda Superintendent Gerry Curley admitted race and hate crime was an problem in the Dundalk area, particularly in schools.
“Hate crime was an issue, particularly in and around the schools last year,” he said. “It has surfaced again and it is something we are very conscious about it. We probably need to have a specific meeting with community leaders to see if we can address the issues.”
Supt Curley confirmed that one person charged with a hate crime related offence is currently before the courts. There was a separate incident in Dundalk last weekend that Gardai attended.
“We would like to get in early in the communities so that hate crime and racism doesn’t have time to bed in in the community,” Louth Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan added. “We see it all over the world. If that is allowed to seep into our society or a locality, its very hard to combat.
Chief Supt Mangan confirmed that the Gardai in Louth engage with Pavee Point in relation to traveller mediation, if there are disputes. “We value their assistance in such matters. Hate crime, in particular, can be very difficult.”