Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.01 4 Jun 2020


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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called out an 'absence of moral leadership from where it should have came' in the US amid the ongoing protests and unrest in the country.

In a Dáil speech, Mr Varadkar also warned that many people in Ireland still experience 'overt and insidious' racism.

He told deputies the "world has watched in horror" following the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The Taoiseach said: "It has prompted a palpable outpouring of emotion, and spontaneous expressions of solidarity against the poison of racism.

"We've also seen genuine revulsion at the heavy-handed response in some instances towards peaceful protesters and journalists.

"We've witnessed the absence of moral leadership or words of understanding, comfort or healing from whence they should have come."

The Taoiseach described racism as a "virus" that's often unrecognised to those who it infects.

He said he believes it's fortunate that Ireland has a policing service that's "based on consent" and has unarmed officers.

He also told deputies recent years have seen Irish society "enriched by racial diversity".

However, Mr Varadkar said there's no need to look across the Atlantic to find racism.

He observed: "We have many examples in our own country - discrimination on the basis of skin colour is pernicious.

"Sometimes it's overt - discrimination when it comes to getting a job or promotion, or being treated less favourably by public authorities, including sometimes government officials.

"Sometimes it manifests itself in the form of hate speech online, bullying in school, name-calling in the streets, or even acts of violence."

He also said it can take the form of little things that are "small but none the less othering".

Highlighting examples, he told the Dáil: "Being asked where you came from originally because your skin or surname looks out of place... how often you go back to the country where your mother of father was born in... being spoken to more slowly... cultural and character assumptions based on your appearance... being made to feel just that little bit less Irish than everyone else.

"Sadly this is the lived experience for many young people of colour growing up in Ireland today."

The Taoiseach called on people to use the solidarity shown during the COVID-19 crisis to fight racism and "change the experiences of young people of colour in Ireland for the better".

'Vital the Government takes a stand'

Earlier, RISE TD Paul Murphy told The Pat Kenny Show the Government should consider expelling the US ambassador to Ireland in response to the Trump administration's recent actions.

He said what's happening in the US at the moment is 'horrifying'.

He told Pat: “It is akin to the kind of repression you’d see in a more openly authoritarian society.

“I think it’s vital that the Irish Government takes a stand against that and shows the world that we’re on the side of the majority of the American people.

“I think the most effective way to do that is to call in the Ambassador to explain that we stand against the actions of the government that he represents… that we stand with the protesters and say Black Lives Matter… and until peaceful protesters are not being driven of the streets in a militaristic way, then he isn’t welcome in this country to represent Donald Trump.”

Deputy Murphy suggested it would send a signal right around the world, and that other countries following such an action would send a clear message to the Trump administration.

Main image: Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil this afternoon. Image: Oireachtas TV

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