Why we should all support the Love Not Hate Campaign – by Ian McGahon of Sunbeam House Services...
Inclusion Ireland recently signed up to the Love Not Hate Campaign
It is a campaign to bring in a new hate crime law in Ireland
People with disabilities do get targeted (sometimes violently) in hate crime
In the UK, hate crimes against people with disabilities have included
Adam Pearson being told on a YouTube comment he “should have been burned to death at birth” because his face is disfigured
Christine North, an intellectually disabled woman, being urinated on while she lay dying in July 2007
We should all support the Love Not Hate campaign
Recently, Inclusion Ireland signed up as a supporter to the Love Not Hate Campaign. What exactly is the Love Not Hate Campaign? Why should it be supported by people with disabilities and disability advocacy and human rights organisations? Why do we need the campaign in Ireland and what does it propose?
Love Not Hate is a campaign led by ENAR (European Network Against Racism) Ireland and its Action Against Racism Group. It is a campaign to bring in hate crime legislation in Ireland. Most European countries have laws on hate crime but, uniquely, Ireland does not. The campaign proposes a law in Ireland that provides for sentencing to be increased and for crimes to be treated as more serious if prejudice or hate can be shown to be a motive.
A hate crime is, typically, a violent crime motivated by prejudice, when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their perceived membership of a certain social group. People targeted by hate-motivated crime in Ireland are usually from an ethnic minority background (racist hate crime), from a religious minority (religious hate crime), Lesbian, gay or bisexual (homophobic hate crime), Transgender (transphobic hate crime), People with disabilities (disablist hate crime).
Disablist hate crime or hate crime where people with disabilities are targeted because of their disability is something that rarely gets discussed or highlighted in public or in the media. In the UK it has become a growing phenomenon, because the public discourse has turned against people in receipt of state welfare support and portrays them as scroungers and spongers, and certainly people who use wheelchairs are violently targeted.
Adam Pearson, a UK actor, highlighted the issue last year on BBC3. He has a severe facial disfigurement and was told on a YouTube comment he “should have been burned to death at birth”. No action was taken by the state or YouTube on this despite, as Pearson points out, the fact that perpetrators of racist online comments on Twitter have been prosecuted.
Pearson now campaigns on the issue of disablist hate crime, and has highlighted several cases. Kevin Davies, an epileptic aged 29, was kept in a shed by “friends” where he was fed on scraps and beaten for weeks before he died in 2006. One of his torturers kept a diary of the abuse. Christine North, an intellectually disabled woman, collapsed and lay dying in Hartlepool in July 2007, neighbour Anthony Anderson urinated on her. He also egged on a pal to film the incident.
We are all probably very aware of hate crimes that target migrants, black people, Muslims, refugees and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, but honestly, how many of us really take the issues of disablist hate crime seriously? Until approximately 3 years ago I didn’t take it too seriously as an issue either. Since then I’ve seen it in voluntary work that I do with the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech Movement and I’ve also seen it in my own day job. I work with people with intellectual disabilities, and have been told of several cases of verbal abuse and harassment (thankfully nothing seriously violent).
When I was researching this article, I found 2014 statistics on hate crime in Ireland published by the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). To me they were startling, and showed that we in Ireland do not take this issue seriously at all. The OSCE found two things: one, that 53 crimes were recorded by Gardaí as having a bias motive, and two, that 171 crimes were recorded as having a bias motive by NGOs and civil society organisations. Only 1 of these 171 was recorded as a disablist hate crime. At face value, this may suggest that disablist is not a big problem in Ireland. However, delving further into this it is clear that dozens of hate crimes were obviously not reported to the Gardaí. Additionally, when we look again to the UK, the police there found in a 2013 report that disablist hate crime was not taken seriously enough in how it is prosecuted.
I was personally involved in researching hate crime against LGBT people in Dublin in 2006, and we found huge under-reporting. Considering all of this (the OSCE data, the UK experience and my own personal experiences of researching hate crime against LGBT people and being aware of people with disabilities subject to verbal harassment), I firmly believe that Ireland is not taking the issue of hate crime seriously. We need to update our hate crime laws, and disablist hate crime needs to be firmly recognised.
The Love Not Hate Campaign is something all of us should be supporting.
We need to send a clear message that racism, homophobia, transphobia, disablism and hate have no place in our communities and that our society must be inclusive of all.
We need to update Ireland’s hate crime laws for many reasons.
We must break the silence on hate crime, encourage people to report it, and find effective ways to address all forms of prejudice.
For more information on the campaign see http://enarireland.org/hatecrime/