Leah Farrell

Varadkar condemns racism 'of any form' in the Dáil amid anti-refugee protests

The Government plans to unveil an action plan against racism in March.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has condemned racism “of any form” in the Dáil this afternoon, saying that there is no place for it in Ireland.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Varadkar said that the Government would be continuing to fight against racism and that it planned to publish a national action plan in March.

In particular, Varadkar said that protests against foreign nationals who work in the healthcare service were a “new low”, adding that it was “appalling”.

“While there is no excuse for any form of racism, in my view, under any circumstances, it really is a low blow and a new low if healthcare workers – who we are so grateful for the fact that they have come here – are now facing protests and racism from those who don’t believe they’re welcome here,” Varadkar said.

“I think that’s really appalling.”  

When Solidarity TD Mick Barry said that issues like the housing crisis had pushed people towards the far-right and anti-migrant sentiment, Varadkar rejected this and said that groups would instead blame other issues on asylum seekers and refugees.

“Racists and the far-right will blame whatever problem the country is facing on migrants, that’s the way it works, that’s the way they think,” Varadkar said.

“So if we have a housing crisis, it’ll be the foreigners are taking our homes. If we have an unemployment crisis, it’ll be the the foreigners are taking our jobs. If we’ve got high levels of crime, they’ll blame the foreigners for the high levels of crime.

“If there’s violence against women – one of the oldest tropes in the book – they will blame that on migrants and people who come here from overseas, particularly those who are brown or black.”

Varadkar said that regardless of what issue a country is facing, the far-right will attempt to pin the blame on migrants.

He added that nobody in the Dáil wanted to see the issue of race or migration become a central plank of Irish politics, adding that he was conscious of the issue himself

“Most of all, somebody like me, given my colour and my family background and the fact that I am biracial,” Varadkar added.

Varadkar had previously said that he was “very concerned” about the rise of the far-right and had condemned the protests that were taking place outside refugee accommodation centres.

Mortgage relief

During Leaders’ Questions, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald questioned Varadkar about whether or not the Government would consider introducing mortgage relief for homeowners, following recent interest rate hikes by the European Central Bank.

While Varadkar did not rule out introducing mortgage relief, he said that there were currently no plans to do so and that any such relief would typically be a Budget measure.

However, he said that if Sinn Féin had proposals for mortgage relief, the Government would examine and cost them.