Dublin FF canvasser dismissed for making anti-Semitic remarks

Party rejects ‘all forms of racism’, says Fianna Fáil spokeswoman

Chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland Maurice Cohen has called on Fianna Fáil leader Micháel Martin “to state clearly his parties opposition to all forms of anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia and to reassure all minority religions and peoples in Ireland that no such views will be tolerated from any member in his party.”  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland Maurice Cohen has called on Fianna Fáil leader Micháel Martin “to state clearly his parties opposition to all forms of anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia and to reassure all minority religions and peoples in Ireland that no such views will be tolerated from any member in his party.” Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Fri, May 9, 2014, 14:11

A Fianna Fáil local election candidate in south Dublin has described as “entirely inappropriate” and “repugnant to me” comments made to a young Jewish woman by one of his canvassers last night.

Outgoing county councillor John Lehart said that on hearing of the comments he “went immediately to the home of these constituents who were clearly distressed.”

He said he “apologised unreservedly to them for the comments made by the canvasser in question, and for the obvious distress caused to them. The constituents graciously accepted my apology. I assured them that this canvasser would no longer be part of my team. Our conversation ended warmly.”

In a statement late last night the chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland Maurice Cohen explained how, during a canvass earlier in the night, “a young mother and member of the Jewish community in Dublin” was subjected “to what can only be described as anti-Semitic remarks.

“The FF canvasser acting in support of outgoing councillor John Lahart upon being informed that the young woman would not be voting Fianna Fáil queried ‘You’re hardly voting FG? The problem is that Alan Shatter is a Jew and as a Jew he looks down on the rest of us Gentiles..... Oh maybe you’re a jewess?’ Whereupon he followed with ‘Well it’s a good profession to be in’.”

Mr Cohen added: “This latest anti-Semitic incident follows upon the two packages of anti-Semitic material sent to the family home of former Minister Alan Shatter TD and an anti-Semitic wall daubing in Rathfarnham a number of days ago.”

He said his Council was “appalled” at the comments and “may ask the Gardaí to examine the relevant clauses of the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 in order to establish if there has been any infringements under this Act.”

He called on Cllr Lehart “ to clarify his position publicly and disassociate himself from these remarks” and further called on Fianna Fáil leader Micháel Martin “to state clearly his parties opposition to all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia and to reassure all minority religions and peoples in Ireland that no such views will be tolerated from any member in his party.”

Mr Cohen commented that he had “a growing concern with what I feel is a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric in public discourse. It is imperative that the people of Ireland and especially our teachers and clergy of all our religions, foster and encourage respect for all communities, traditions and races that make up the ever more colourful tapestry of modern Ireland.”

In his statement this morning Cllr Lehart explained: “I had two teams of canvassers calling to houses on my behalf” in south Dublin last night. When I had completed my own canvass just before nine o’clock last night, I received a call from one of my team in another area of my constituency, concerning remarks which had been made by a canvasser to constituents who are members of the Jewish community.

“These remarks were entirely inappropriate and expressed views which are repugnant to me.” He then called to the young woman concerned.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson added: “The comments attributed to an individual member of Cllr John Lahart’s campaign team are utterly unacceptable and we condemn them.”

She said Cllr Lahart had visited the relevant family and had apologised without reservation. “He also immediately dismissed the individual in question from his campaign team,” she said, adding “Fianna Fáil rejects all forms of racism and has worked hard over many years to strengthen laws targeting racist behaviour.”