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Discrimination – some new figures to analyse July 15, 2019

Posted by Tomboktu in Equality, LGBT, Travellers.

Discrimination is alive and kicking in Ireland. Two weeks ago, the Central Statistics Office published the results of a survey it conducted between January and March this year (web version here, 22-page PDF here). People were asked if they had experienced discrimination in the previous two years. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed said they had.

There is lots in the report to chew on, but I will look at two topics.

— * — * —

The group that reported the highest rate of discrimination was LGBTI+ people (and the CSO does use that abbreviation LGBTI+), with a third (33.2%) of that group saying they had experienced discrimination in the previous two years, although sexual orientation was perceived as the ground for discrimination by 9.1 percent of the respondents.

I am puzzled by that second figure. If the famous Kinsey figure that 10 percent of the population is lgb, then one explanation for 9.1 percent of a sample of the population experiencing discrimination on the sexual orientation ground is that the vast bulk of us who are in that group experienced discrimination because of that in the last two years. Another explanation is that enough people who are not lgb said they experienced discrimination on that ground to add to the figure for those of us who are bisexual, lesbian or gay and experienced discrimination because of it — that might be because our non-gay friends were with us when the bouncer turned us away, for example. A third possibility could be that Kinsey was wrong, and much more than 10 percent of the population is bisexual, lesbian or gay so that 9.1 percent of the total population is not the vast bulk of the lgb group within that population.

Or maybe lgb respondents did not stick to the rules of the CSO’s survey and said ‘yes’ to that question if they had ever been the victim of homophobic discrimination and not just in the last two years.

— * — * —

The CSO asked if people had experienced discrimination in their contact with An Garda Síochána. The headline figure is that 1.7 percent of the respondents experienced discrimination in contact with the Gardaí. On the surface, it’s not the best or not the worst figure in the report for discrimination in using services. The highest rate was discrimination in using shops, pubs, restaurants, etc., at 2.9 percent; the lowest was 0.6 percent for using public transport. Immediately above (i.e. worse than) the Garda figure in the types of service use listed was the health sector at 2.1 percent, and immediately below them was education at 1.5 percent.

I think that 1.7 percent is not a particularly useful figure by itself. To know how significant it is, we need to know what percentage of the population have contact with the guards in the two-year period. If, say, 90 percent of us had dealings with them in the last two years, then 1.7 percent would be reasonably low. In a perfect world it would be zero, but that is unlikely to be reported for two reasons. First, the size of An Garda Síochána means that there will always be some rotten apples, no matter how good it is overall; second, the survey takes respondents’ self assessments of discrimination and many — but not all — interactions with Gardaí are because the person has done something wrong, and you might expect some of those people to use a confidential CSO survey to express dissatisfaction at a legitimate action by the guards.

More worrying, though, is how the Gardaí fared when people were asked how frequently the experienced discrimination across the different settings. Three answers were available: just once, on a few occasions, and more regularly. The Gardaí had the highest score in the “more regularly” category, with 29.3 percent of those who said the Gardaí discriminated against them saying it occurred “more regularly”, which was higher than the percentage of those who experienced discrimination in the workplace “more regularly”.

Of those who experienced discrimination by the Gardaí, 6.8 percent felt that membership of the Traveller community was the ground for it. That was also the highest source of discrimination on the Traveller ground, higher than education at 6.4 percent. Given that Travellers constitute 0.6607 percent of the population, the Gardaí have clearly work to do to combat anti-Traveller racism in the force.




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