In view of ongoing investigations by the Public Accounts Committee on the concerns of Garda conduct and the taking of Roma children (October 2013) a report of which is underway by the Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan, the Irish Traveller Movement advocate a thorough inspection of claims made by Garda John Wilson and recounted by John McGuinness TD on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE radio 1 yesterday, alleging that 40 Traveller families were entered on the Garda PULSE system including a baby of 16 days old.
This alleged Traveller profiling gives rise to renewed concerns over abuse of Garda powers and highlights shortcomings in the Equal Status Act which extends to Garda duties but does not go far enough to cover the likelihood of discrimination of Travellers or racial profiling in criminal investigations work, and therefore does not equally protect Travellers within the state, in this context.
The Council of Europe ECRI and the UN CERD Committee note that while the Irish State Authorities deny engaging in racial profiling, there is no legislation to prohibit its use by the Gardaí. In fact ECRI in their last report (Feb 2013) recommend that such legislation be introduced.
Concerns were raised in a Sunday Times article March 2013 and again in the Dáil (Oct 2013) by a number of TDs including Clare Daly who asked Minister Shatter “is he aware that information on the records of Traveller children, some of whom are as young as 16 days old, are being input and updated on the PULSE system and what is he going to do about that type of racial profiling?
The Minister responded “I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that the Garda Síochána does not engage in discriminatory ethnic profiling, and specifically that it does not engage in data gathering or data mining based upon discriminatory profiling in respect of race, colour, language, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin, ethnicity or membership of the Traveller community.
I am not clear what point the Deputy is making in relation to the storing of information on PULSE relating to Traveller children. If it is of any assistance, I would make the general point that PULSE does not solely capture information on offenders, but is used to store information on all Garda interactions with individuals, whether adults or children, such as victims of crime and persons injured in road traffic accidents. This would also include child welfare incidents.
The Irish Traveller Movement contend that further investigation into this matter is required in order to properly and comprehensively allay fears within the community given the seriousness of allegations made and in light of recent concerns highlighted on other Garda matters.