Ireland needs hate-crime legislation to encourage the reporting of racist incidents, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council launched an anti-racism campaign with the National Transport Authority today.

The Council said there are no independent figures available on the prevalence of the problem here.

But Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Council, said his organisation does not have statistics this year as it did not have the funding to collect them.

The most recent figures were gathered by European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland, based on self-reporting data from 2017 which showed a 33% increase on the previous period.

It had 330 reports of racism including 19 assaults and 26 cases of harassment and 111 reports of hate speech.

Muslims and Africans were most likely to be targeted, according to the last figures from the Immigrant Council of Ireland collected in 2015 with 20% of incidents occurring on public transport.

Gardaí have been reporting 11 categories of discrimination since 2015 including racism, sectarian, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-Traveller.

However the figures, which are recorded on the garda Pulse system, are not released by the CSO who have said the data is not robust enough to generate reliable statistics. 

A recent report from the Hate and Hostility Research Group in University Limerick found that the "hate element" of a crime was filtered out during the criminal justice system in Ireland and that this country lagged behind other EU states surveyed on hate crime legislation.

John O'Flynn, communications manager of the National Transport Authority, said it wanted to be proactive in combating racism as some of its staff were subject to abuse because of their racial origin.

Bus Éireann inspector Richard Adewuyi said: "You do notice if people are upset, they go for what will wound the most - often that is a racist comment. I don't think that means people are racist, but it shows just how important education is."

Today’s launch saw the unveiling of a poster featuring a montage of 792 selfies from commuters made into an image of a face.