Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.20 27 Sep 2019


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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says social media attacks on a mixed-race couple from Co Meath are 'disgusting'.

He was responding after the couple received online racist abuse for appearing in a Lidl advert.

Mr Varadkar told journalists in Los Angeles that he 'unreservedly condemns' the online abuse.

Fiona Ryan, her partner Jonathan Mathis and their son Jonah appear in 'The Big Save' campaign on TV and billboards.

However they say they have received racist abuse online after appearing in the ads.

Mr Mathis is originally from Brazil but grew up in England. The couple now live in Ireland.

Fiona says people have abused them because of Jonathan's Brazilian background.

Lidl told Newstalk.com it stemmed from "offensive tweets" by Gemma O'Doherty.

The company said: "We decided to block and report her directly to Twitter.

"We are very proud of our multicultural and diverse team and our customers across Ireland.

"We are proud to work with and serve each and every one of them. Everyone is welcome in our stores."

Lidl Jonathan Mathis is originally from Brazil and was adopted into an English family | Image: YouTube/Lidl Ireland

In response, Ms O'Doherty hit out at The Irish Times on social media, claiming: "More lies and defamation by the journalist and newspaper that has fostered a culture of baby-killing in Ireland.

"Freedom of 'choice' when it comes to exterminating 1,000 babies a month but no freedom of speech for fear of offending crass German discounters destroying Irish retail".

Fiona says she does not think Ireland is a safe place to bring up their young son.

"We received online hate speech in response to a tweet that was tweeted by a former journalist.

"I just never realised that Ireland had such hatred, and the fact that it's actually allowed out there through no legislation.

"There's no Government legislation that protects minorities, and I never knew that before."

She says she moved to London when she was 19 and met her partner seven years ago.

"We went around the world, did some travelling and had Jonah then - I had a little baby boy in England - and then a year later we decided to set some roots.

"So we came back home to Ireland and now we're saving money at the moment, and just kind of having a look at that decision now after everything".

"Basically the abuse was pointed at our multi-cultural relationship - the term 'the great replacement' was used as a derogatory term I suppose to kind of deter against multi-racial relationships and to say that we weren't an actual real family, [that] we don't represent Irish families".

Lidl Fiona Ryan appears in the Lidl advert | Image: YouTube/Lidl Ireland

"When in fact we do - there's so many beautiful cultures out there that are now living in Ireland that needs to be protected by law".

She says she brought the racist tweets to the Gardaí.

"I reported it to the Guards - originally they said it was a civil matter and that they couldn't do anything about it.

"And then after my research with Shane O'Curry from ENAR [European Network Against Racism], he actually told me that there is a legislation, a prohibition in place that protects people from incitement of hatred.

"And so I went back to the police and I basically told them that this is my right to report this - and I had to insist about four times with the police lady that she needed to take my report and she needed to give me a PULSE ID.

"If a minority that English wasn't their first language, that crime wouldn't have been reported - and that I think is the fundamental issue here.

"That it's not being reported correctly through the police and there's no legislation that the Government has to protect these people".

"I've got a 22-month-old son who is not protected to be who he is in this country... why would I bring my son up in a country who doesn't actually protect his rights to be who he is?"


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Brazil Fiona Ryan Gemma O'doherty Jonathan Mathis Lidl Lidl Advert Racism Racist Abuse Twitter

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