TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has criticised President Donald Trump, saying there has been an “absence of moral leadership” in the response to protests across US cities in recent days.
r Varadkar said the world had watched in horror at the events in the United States where there have been large scale protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.
The Taoiseach did not reference Mr Trump directly, but said in a speech to the Dáil: “We've witnessed the absence of moral leadership, or words of understanding, comfort or healing from whence they should have come.”
Mr Varadkar said this was “absolutely wrong”. Speaking to TDs, Mr Varadkar said there had been “a palpable outpouring of emotion, spontaneous expressions of solidarity against the poison of racism”.
He described racism as “a virus transmitted at an early age, perpetuated by prejudice, sustained by systems often unrecognised by those whom it infects, possible to counteract and correct for, but never easy to cure”.
Mr Varadkar said Ireland had been enriched by racial diversity in recent decades and that the country was fortunate to have a policing model based on consent and "an unarmed and highly professional police service".
However, he said there were many examples of racism in Ireland. “Discrimination on the basis of skin colour is pernicious. Sometimes it's overt discrimination when it comes to getting a job or promotion or being treated less favourably by public authorities, including sometimes government officials,” he said.
“Sometimes it manifests itself in the form of hate speech online, bullying in school, name calling in the streets, or even acts of violence. Sometimes it's almost innocent, and unknowing, and all the more insidious.”
The Taoiseach cited examples of people being asked where they come from originally because of their skin colour or surname “looks out of place”; being spoken to more slowly; or “being made to feel just that little bit less Irish than everyone else”.
He said this was the "lived experience for many young people of colour growing up in Ireland today".
Mr Varadkar said the country had come together to fight Covid-19 and should use the sense of solidarity and community in response to the pandemic to take on racism. “We can learn from the mistakes of other countries and make sure we do not follow their path,” he said.
A number of party leaders used the killing of George Floyd to raise the issue of the Direct Provision system in Ireland.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that “rhetoric in the Irish system decries racism while holding up direct provision and the segregation of our traveller population”.
Labour TD Alan Kelly called on the Taoiseach to commit to ending the controversial system of housing asylum seekers.
Mr Varadkar admitted that “a lot of Direct Provision accommodation is sub-standard and that needs to change”.
He said the Government was attempting to do this, but also said it was not compulsory and is "ultimately a service provided by the state” with free accommodation, food, heat, lighting, education, and spending money.
“It's not the same thing as a man being killed by the police,” he added.