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What we focus on

All forms of racism and prejudice are offences against the dignity of humanity. CAJ is working with others to make Northern Ireland into a society where prejudice, regardless of how it manifests, is confronted and tackled, where hate crime is reduced, and where interventions are actively taken to remove all other forms of hate expression from public space.

Campaigning against prejudice

CAJ supports campaigns to end racism and other forms of prejudice in Northern Ireland. We do not necessarily take a lead role in this area of work – rather we try to bring a human rights perspective and contribute our expertise on rights and equality to shared campaigns. This area has been a core priority for the CAJ-UNISON convened Equality Coalition for a number of years.


Sectarianism in NI has been recognised by both UN and Council of Europe Treaty bodies as a specific form of racism. We have a body of work on tackling sectarianism, including the 2020 report, Sectarianism: The Key Facts, which was commissioned by the Equality Coalition and written by Dr Robbie McVeigh.

Hate crimes legislation

Currently, Northern Ireland does not have hate crime legislation. This means that there are no specific offenses in law for prejudice-motivated crimes. The addition of these offenses in our legal system could act as a powerful deterring signal against these types of crimes and the harm they cause the broader community. In 2019, partly in response to lobbying from CAJ, the Department of Justice (DoJ) commissioned Judge Desmond Marrinan to conduct an independent review of hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland. We engaged extensively with the review – you can read our written submission here.

Our submission recommended: Strengthening current legislation in line with international human rights standards; introducing an aggravated offenses model (where crimes receive an additional penalty if they are motivated by hate); the addition of new protected grounds of gender and gender identity; and action to effectively tackle online hate speech and hate expression in public space.

The review concluded at the end of 2020 and it is now up to DoJ to take the recommendations forward.

By hate crime, we mean acts of violence, hostility, and intimidation directed towards people because of their identity or perceived ‘difference’.

Hate expression

Hate expression remains prevalent in public space in Northern Ireland, causing significant harm to the communities it targets. CAJ recognises the need to remove hate expression physically from public space. We propose that this is taken forward by placing a statutory duty (legal obligation) on public authorities to take reasonable steps to remove hate expression from their property – as was recommended within the independent review of hate crime legislation. This duty should cover expression that is intrinsically racist, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, or disablist (etc), as well as expression that, in light of all the circumstances, is likely to constitute hate expression on a protected ground. Our 2022 report into hate expression on public space can be accessed here.

Incitement to hatred

CAJ is working to strengthen the current legislation on incitement to hatred in line with international human rights standards. We are advocating for revised legislation to cover hate expression that occurs in a public context and is intended to (or can reasonably be expected to) incite acts of violence, intimidation, hostility, or discrimination against a protected group. In 2017, CAJ, under the banner of the Equality Coalition, explored the current policy and legal framework surrounding incitement to hatred at a conference in QUB. The report from that conference is available here. In 2018, we also commissioned research from McVeigh, Dr Robbie on Incitement to Hatred in Northern Ireland.