Apology for 'ask Irish to leave' remark
An Australian government minister was forced to apologise for her "ignorant, anti-Irish" statement while attempting to warn people about travelling conmen.
Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz spoke as a nationwide campaign was launched in Australia to make people aware about scam artists who offer to carry out work or repairs to their homes.
"If anybody knocks on your door that has an Irish accent, automatically ask them to leave," she said.
"They know where to go, who to target - as soon as they get cash in their hands, they're gone," Ms Kairouz said at a press conference.
The controversy comes just a week after President Michael D Higgins completed a State visit to Australia.
People from both Ireland and elsewhere living in Australia went online to voice their disgust at the statement.
"Absolutely no need to slam all Irish people and make racist comments like that," one person wrote. "The minister needs to apologise to the hard-working Irish people in this country."
Another wrote: "Well, minister, I am an Irish community nurse who knocks on many doors every day to provide care for people of all nationalities in this beautiful country. Shame on you for your ignorance and sweeping statement."
Ms Kairouz later apologised for her comments.
"Yesterday, I made a comment at a scam awareness campaign launch that caused offence to people with Irish heritage," she said.
"Recent scammers have been backpackers from the UK and Ireland, and I was giving this info to the public. I admit I delivered this message poorly. I sincerely apologise for causing offence and my poor choice of words."
In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Ireland remarked on the "hugely positive contribution" Irish people had made to Australia. "Over more than two centuries, people of Irish birth and heritage have made a hugely positive contribution to Australia, and continue to do so."
It added that this was publicly acknowledged by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his recent meeting with President Higgins in Canberra.