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Friday 18 August 2017

'They see us as easy pickings' - The next Mayor of Limerick put into doubt over 'racist' comments

Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary
Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary

Daniel O'Connor

Fine Gael’s candidate to become the next mayor of Limerick may face unexpected opposition to his appointment after making "racist" remarks towards Eastern Europeans.

Fine Gael councillor Stephen Keary suggested that people from Eastern Europe see Ireland as having “easy pickings” when referring to a rise in the numbers on social housing lists.

“The influx of non-nationals into the country is a major drain on the State. People have come here from Eastern Europe for the handouts,” Cllr. Keary said at an Adare-Rathkeale district meeting.

“It has become a huge problem here. We are known as home for the handouts.”

Since making these comments, a petition calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to remove Cllr Keary as a mayoral candidate has been signed by over 600 people.

“It's time to propose a new Fine Gael candidate for Mayor of Limerick, Taoiseach,” the petition says.

“Limerick is a vibrant, welcoming, fast-changing, multicultural place. It needs a mayor who reflects its' people and its' outlook.”

“It looks like FG's candidate for Limerick Mayor is a throw-back to the Fine Gael of the 1930's. For the people of Limerick, wherever they're from, that's just not good enough.”

Some 23 out of the 40 Limerick councillors come from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who have agreed to share top jobs in the council evenly this term.

However, the Limerick Leader has reported that a number of Fianna Fáil councillors are considering putting forward an alternative candidate in the midst of Cllr Keary’s controversial comments

Speaking to Independent.ie, outgoing Mayor Cllr. Michael Hourigan has said that Fine Gael still fully supports Cllr Keary, and that he expects his appointment to go ahead without issue.

“Within the Fine Gael party, Cllr Keary is our candidate full stop and we are all one hundred percent behind him,” Cllr Hourigan said.

“We have a pact with Fianna Fail and our information from them is that they will be also behind Cllr. Keary. That is from the point of view of Fine Gael, and I believe Fianna Fáil will honour the pact.”

Cllr Keary has since apologised for his comments.

“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,” Cllr Keary said to the Limerick Leader.

It is expected that Labour Councillor and Moldovan national Elena Secas will be put forward by opposition groupings as a candidate to challenge Cllr Keary.

Cllr Secas previously made an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of the Metropolitan District of Limerick last year.

In response to Clll Keary’s recent comments, she has since said in a statement that she does not deem her Fine Gael counterpart fit to be mayor.

“The Mayor should be inclusive and representative of all and every person in Limerick and should promote a positive image of Limerick locally, nationally and internationally,” Cllr Secas said.

“I strongly condemn these racist comments and believe that all immigrant communities in Limerick and across Ireland are owed an apology.”

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