Dáil told politicians must call out racism in the political system

Politicians must call out racism in the political system, the Dáil has been told.
Dáil told politicians must call out racism in the political system

Politicians must call out racism in the political system, the Dáil has been told.

Speaking today during statements on combatting racism in the chamber, Labour Party TD Áodhán Ó Ríordáin said that the political system in Ireland had seen racism used for its own benefit and that TDs should raise these issues when they see them.

"We have Deputies in this House who have said that asylum seekers are freeloaders, blackguards and hoodlums, that asylum seekers need to be deprogrammed and that asylum seekers are here to sponge off the system.

"We have two members of a governing party who have been on the wrong side of anti-Traveller literature controversies, one of whom sits at Cabinet.

"A number of years ago a Fine Gael councillor said in a public statement that he would not deal with black Africans. He lost the whip for 18 months.

"We need to call out the hypocrisy of standing in a Parliament like this full of white people and saying that racism is something other people do because it is what politicians in Ireland do."

Mr O Ríordáin said that politicians could not stand in the Oireachtas and say "racism is what other people in Irish society do and that we have no part of it because we do".

He said that with 11 nominees available for the Seanad, now was the time to appoint "somebody from minority communities, rather than a party political hack".

'You don’t get to be racist and Irish'

The statements were led by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who said that the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act was not sufficient to deter hate speech.

He said that his Department is currently working on new legislation, but that "it is not enough to have legislation on the statue books – it is essential that the legislation is effective".

Mr Flanagan said that he was "profoundly moved" by a poem by singer Imelda May, which said "You don’t get to be racist and Irish".

"She reminds us of the piercing truth that our history - as a people who have experienced the torment of discrimination, exclusion and intolerance – means that we cannot be blind to the same terrible wrong being done to others. Our pride in our heritage and history must extend to taking pride in our fairness, our tolerance and our inclusivity."

Sinn Féin TD Eoin O Broin said that racism exists in Ireland and pointed to the 27th Amendment as something which must be changed.

"Let us make a clear statement today - Ireland belongs to all of us, not just those of us who were born here, but those who come here, work here and contribute to our society. Let us work together and tackle racism once and for all."

Fianna Fáil Cork West TD Christopher O'Sullivan said that racism in Ireland sometimes came from a "mistrust" of outsiders.

"Prejudice is deeply rooted in all of us. It is fed by background, popular culture and, in Ireland, a sometimes clannish mistrust of people from other cultures. It is all borne out of a complex sense of inferiority because, as a colonised country and as migrants, we were once sinned against.

"As a nation we need to look at the places where these attitudes are formed. I could give examples but we all know them. The terrible truth is that racism exists in Ireland. It needs to be called out and stamped out."

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