US Romani Professor Settles Discrimination Case against an Garda Síochána (Irish Police)

14 October 2021

Dublin, Brussels, 14th October 2021: Traveller and Roma human rights organisations welcome today a settlement by An Garda Síochána, Ireland's police service, in relation to a discrimination complaint made against them by a US Romani Scholar who travelled to Ireland in August 2017 for a Roma Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration. The event was co-sponsored by the then Irish Department of Justice and Equality and the US Embassy. 

Upon arrival at Dublin Airport, Ms. Ethel Brooks was subjected to discriminatory and disparaging remarks about Travellers and Roma by a member of An Garda Síochána at passport control. Ms. Brooks, having explained she was of Romani heritage herself, was afraid the officer would not stamp her passport allowing her to enter the country. At the time Gardai carried out immigration duties, but no longer do so. 

'I was very shocked and distressed by the comments made to me by An Garda Siochana on that date in 2017," said Professor Brooks "And was quite shaken by the whole experience.  It was something I never expected. Now I realise it's indicative of the racism and discrimination that Travellers and Roma face every day in Ireland."

Ethel Brooks is the Chairperson of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). She is Associate Professor at the Department of Women's Gender and Sexual Studies at Rutgers University, New Jersey and was also appointed to the US Holocaust Memorial Council by the then US President, Barack Obama. 

"It beggars belief that a person should be met with discriminatory and racist rant at arrivals in Dublin airport. What a shameful first impression this makes and it brings the Gardai and indeed the whole State into disrepute," said Martin Collins Co Director of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, which has previously hosted Ms. Brooks in Ireland.

"We hope this case sends out a clear message that racist comments by An Garda Síochána or any other civil servant in the course of their duty is wholly unacceptable," said Mr. Collins "We welcome the Irish Government's much needed National Action Plan Against Racism, due to be published soon and this incident highlights the need for ongoing anti-racism training for all public servants." 

President of the ERRC, Đorđe Jovanović, said that incidents like these are commonplace for Roma throughout Europe: “discrimination at border controls is something that affects Romani people systematically in Europe – East and West, EU and non-EU – this is something we often have to live with. Settlements like these send a message that such racism will not be tolerated and that it will not come cheap.” 

As part of the settlement, which was agreed on appeal to the Circuit Court following a complaint under the Equal Status Act taken by Ms Brooks supported by FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), Gardai acknowledge that 'all persons should be treated with courtesy and respect regardless of background or ethnicity'.

Gardai state that all officers must comply with their Code of Ethics which provides for responsibilities under Irish equality legislation and that a module on diversity and equality is offered as part of training for Garda recruits.  As part of the settlement Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre is to receive a donation which Mr. Collins said will go to support Pavee Point's work in anti-racism and equality.

For more information, or to arrange an interview contact:

Jonathan Lee
Advocacy & Communications Manager
European Roma Rights Centre 
+32 49 288 7679



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