Online petition asks Taoiseach to block election of councillor as mayor of Limerick over 'racist' remarks

Online petition asks Taoiseach to block election of councillor as mayor of Limerick over 'racist' remarks
Cllr Stephen Keary. Pic: Press 22.

Hundreds of people have signed a petition asking Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to block the election of one of his party's members as Limerick mayor over "racist" remarks.

Cllr Stephen Keary, the father-in-law of Junior Minister Patrick O'Donovan, suggested welfare recipients from Eastern Europe see Ireland as "easy pickings".

He said immigrants are the reason why there has been a rise in the numbers on social housing and hospital waiting lists.

Fine Gael has distanced itself from the remarks, saying they do not represent the party policy.

Although Cllr Keary has since apologised for causing any offence, his comments have prompted anger, with more than 500 people signing a petition calling on Mr Varadkar to force Fine Gael to nominate an alternative candidate in Limerick.

The online campaign says: "Limerick is a vibrant, welcoming, fast-changing, multicultural place. It needs a mayor who reflects its people and its outlook. It looks like Fine Gael's candidate for Limerick Mayor is a throw-back to the Fine Gael of the 1930s."

Derek O'Dwyer, who started the online petition said: "The whole thing [about his mayoralty] just doesn’t sit well with me. You have to remember come March next year, he will not just represent Limerick on the national stage, he will represent Limerick on the international stage. Do I want him to go to New York and speak on my behalf? I don’t, and I do not think he’s fit to.”

It is understood many Fianna Fáil councillors are deeply uncomfortable backing Cllr Keary for the mayoralty, and may ask Fine Gael to put forward another candidate in return for their support.

After he initially defended the remarks, Cllr Keary apologised if his comments hurt anyone, adding: “A small minority abuse the system and some of my constituents in the Adare/Rathkeale municipal area have relayed their feelings to me on that. That is all I was attempting to say.”

Limerick citizens from overseas are expected to be at Monday's mayoral election to show their opposition.

A number of Eastern European citizens have already written a letter to Limerick councillors calling on them to reject Cllr Keary's mayoral bid following the "uninformed, racist and divisive comments".

"Cllr Keary's attempt to blame the hospital and housing waiting lists on a so-called 'influx' of immigrants should be roundly condemned by all councillors. Not only is it offensive, it is completely and utterly unsupported by the facts. The reality is that Ireland has seen net emigration over the last five years, while the waiting lists have grown," said the letter which was signed by five people.

Asked about the petition, Cllr Keary declined to comment.


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