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Varadkar vows to fight racism after protests against refugees

Ireland’s premier has vowed to tackle racism after a number of protests against refugees.

Protests have been held in recent weeks in Waterford, Cork and areas of Dublin where refugees or asylum seekers have been accommodated.

During leader’s questions in the Irish parliament on Wednesday, People Before Profit–Solidarity TD Mick Barry accused of the Government “handing racists their number one gift” in terms of the housing crisis in the Ireland.

He said the Government’s efforts to house Ukrainian refugees, compared with the “lack of effort” to house victims of the housing crisis, mean people feel aggrieved, adding: “The door opens up for the racist messaging of the far right facilitated by your Government.”

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Referring to himself as a man of colour, Mr Varadkar urged TDs not to inadvertently make excuses for racists.

He described protests outside hospitals where foreign nationals are members of staff as a “new low if health care workers who we’re so grateful for the fact that they’ve come here, are now facing protests”.

The Taoiseach said the Government will publish a national action plan against racism in March, described as a “whole-of-Government effort”, including funding for integration and countering racist activities.

“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,” he told TDs.

“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 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’ve come here from overseas, particularly those who are brown or black.

“We shouldn’t play into those arguments.

“Whatever country, whatever problem any country faces, they’re going to blame it on the brown man or the brown woman.

“It’s housing now, it could just as easily be employment, it could just as easily be crime.”

Mr Varadkar said that as a person of colour and someone who is biracial, he did not want to see the issue of race or migration at centre-stage in Irish politics.

He urged Mr Barry to be careful “not to play their game”.

“I know you’re well intentioned and I know you’re fervently anti-racist and internationalist, so I absolutely accept that, but I just asked you not to inadvertently play their game,” he said.

“Don’t make any excuses for them. No matter what problem a country faces the far right and racists will blame that on migrants.

“They will always pick on whatever issue is hurting a country at a particular point in time and try to blame that on the other.”