Tuesday 16 July 2019

Australian MP sparks backlash for her 'anti-Irish' comments

Minister apologised for her 'offensive' comments

Marlene Kairouz
Marlene Kairouz
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

An Australian MP has been slammed 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.

The minister's comments sparked massive backlash, with many calling on her to apologise.

Her comments were aired on news channel 9News, where journalists reported that an Irish accent is a "common theme" in the scam.

They described the minister's statement as a "very, very broad warning."

"They know where to go, who to target, as soon as they get cash in their hands, they're gone," Minister Kairouz said at a press conference.

"If anybody knocks on your door that has an Irish accent, automatically ask them to leave."

However, people from both Ireland and elsewhere living in Australia have voiced 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. I am Irish but people say oh are you Scottish all the time. How can they prove that they are Irish??"

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."

Another added; "This network should apologise to the Irish community and anyone with irish friends and family for entertaining this type of blare faced racism. How is this different then saying don't open your door to any person of colour or ethnicity ? Imagine in this day and age people can be so blind."

Another described the statement as "anti-Irish".

"Feel sorry for the woman who had been conned but cannot believe the Ministers blatant anti Irish statement! Shame on you!"

While another wrote that Irish people have respected work ethics in the country.

"Aussies have told us themselves that irish are often hired because of their work ethics. What a shameful, disgustingly racist comment."

The minister later apologised for her comments.

"Yesterday I made a comment at a scam awareness campaign launch that caused offence to people with Irish heritage.

"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 released today, the Australian Embassy in Ireland said it's aware of the comments and remarked on the "hugely positive contribution" Irish people have 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. This was publicly acknowledged recently by the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, who told President Higgins in Canberra: “The warmth of the history and the family ties between Australia and Ireland couldn’t be greater. Australia is the most Irish country in the world, (apart from Ireland, of course)…”

"The best way to sum up the attitudes of the Australian people towards the Irish is again to quote the Prime Minister: “You’re so warmly welcomed. You’re among friends and among family."

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