Rise in xenophobia 'threat to our health service'
Published 09/02/2016 | 02:30
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has warned that the rise of xenophobic or anti-migrant groups poses a direct threat to the Irish healthcare system which is critically dependent on workers from overseas.
Mr Varadkar admitted he was deeply worried about the rise of extremist groups on both the left and right in Ireland.
His comments came as more than 20 people were arrested during violent street protests over a founding meeting of anti-Islamisation group, Pegida Ireland, in Dublin.
Mr Varadkar, who comes from a migrant background, admitted the scenes were deeply worrying for anyone who values an inclusive, tolerant and democratic Ireland.
"I definitely wouldn't like to see in Ireland the rise of xenophobic or potentially racist forces of any sort," the Dublin TD said.
"It is something of real concern. I also believe in free speech and I believe we ought to allow people to say things that maybe we don't like to hear - that is important in a democracy.
"I don't think violence is the answer to people who you don't agree with.
"We already have extremism coming in on the left.
"We have seen what that means in terms of extreme policies and violence directed towards politicians and others."
He warned the rise of extremism in Ireland could have catastrophic consequences for society and the economy.
"You know, in Ireland there are a lot of people from migrant backgrounds, many who are from Muslim backgrounds in particular.
"They make an enormous contribution to our economy and our health service," he said.
"We need to treat them with respect."