Wednesday 21 August 2019

Varadkar is accused of racism fudge on Trump

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been accused of a "fudge" in his response to the racism storm engulfing US president Donald Trump.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday that Mr Trump's remarks had the "hallmarks of racism" but insisted he wasn't calling the US president a racist.

Mr Trump has been embroiled in a massive controversy after he told four US congresswomen from ethic minorities to "go back" to their ancestral countries.

The US House of Representatives later voted to condemn Mr Trump's remarks about the four Democratic politicians - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Mr Trump had claimed in tweets that they came from "countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe", although three were born in the US.

He added: "Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Mr Trump later insisted in further posts that he is not a racist, saying: "I don't have a Racist bone in my body!"

He sustained further criticism after he hit out at Somali-born Ms Omar at a rally in North Carolina.

This prompted chants of "send her back" among the crowd.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney posted a link to a video of the incident online and said: "This is chilling."

He added: "Targeting individuals, fuelling hatred based on race is not acceptable in political discourse… history tells us where this leads."

Mr Trump was last night challenged by reporters at the White House on why he did not stop the chants.

He said: "I think I did - I started speaking very quickly.

"I was not happy with it - I disagree with it. But again I didn't say that. They did. And I disagreed with it."

Mr Varadkar, meanwhile, was asked whether he viewed Mr Trump's original Twitter remarks as racist during an interview on RTÉ Radio.

"It certainly had the hallmarks of racism," he replied.

"I'm not calling President Trump a racist by any means, but some of the things he says appear racist to me."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who has branded Mr Trump a racist in the past, accused the US president of "using racism to stir up hatred and division against immigrants and ethnic groups" as part of his bid for re-election.

He argued that this encourages the far-right to do similar things around the world and said "it's a very serious threat not just in the United States but across Europe".

Mr Boyd Barrett criticised Mr Varadkar's remarks, saying: "The Taoiseach should call this out for what it is rather than fudge around on the issue."

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said she was surprised by Mr Varadkar's response: "President Trump's comments were racist and were intended to cause division ... I was disappointed the Taoiseach didn't condemn the comment."

During the RTÉ interview Mr Varadkar - who is the son of an Indian immigrant - was asked whether he had ever been told to "go back to where you came from".

Mr Varadkar replied: "Have you ever scrolled down my Twitter account to see the things they say? But I have a thick skin, I can take it."

Irish Independent

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