‘Hate will not triumph’ – Varadkar reacts to New Zealand terror attack
Simon Coveney: ‘We are countries that have so much in common’
Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque following the shootings which left 49 dead in central Christchurch, New Zealand. Photograph:Mark Baker/AP
A total of 49 people died and 48 people were injured in New Zealand after one gunman opened fire on Friday prayers at two mosques, forcing the city of Christchurch into lockdown.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland I want to express our condolences and our solidarity with the people of New Zealand following the horrific attacks in Christchurch,” Mr Varadkar said on Friday morning.
“Irish people share a deep affinity with the people of New Zealand, whether it’s through rugby, travel or pride in our culture as small island nations.
“New Zealand and its people are open, tolerant and welcoming. We join them today, united in our condemnation of this appalling attack and determined in our resolve that hate will not triumph. I will be writing to prime minister Jacinda Ardern to express sincere sympathies and support. I would also like to pay tribute to the valiant work of Christchurch’s emergency services.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney called for a moment’s silence at a St Patrick’s Day reception at the Irish Embassy in Paris.
Asked if steps needed to be taken against hate speech against Muslims on social media in Ireland, Mr Coveney said: “Today is about sympathy and solidarity with New Zealand. We’ve seen 49 people lose their lives today . . . We’ve issued a statement of support. Irish people are very close to New Zealand people.
“Many refer to New Zealand as the Ireland of that part of the world. There are so many Irish people in Christchurch. After the earthquake there, many Irish people went to rebuild Christchurch because there weren’t construction jobs in Ireland. So even though we are physically very far away from each other, we are countries who have so much in common.
“Today really is about an outpouring of solidarity and grief. Obviously, we need to consider after we really understand what happened here whether there are lessons and learning for Ireland.
“I have seen some of the commentary on social media around the need to try to combat Islamophobia in other parts of the world, including in Ireland. We obviously have a growing Islamic community in Ireland that we need to protect, but on days like today we shouldn’t be talking about a policy response. We should be talking about a human response to the tragedy that’s unfolded. That is what the focus should be.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the need to challenge anti-Islamic prejudice and hatred was now greater than ever.
The TD said the horrors committed against worshippers in New Zealand were an utterly tragic reminder of the presence of vile, racist, anti-immigration and Islamophobic elements in societies around the world which are being buoyed by the rhetoric and policies of Donald Trump and other far right leaders.
Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “We must rally around our Muslim community now more than ever. The kind of ideas that lead to horrific acts like this must always be challenged and called out for the incitement to hatred that they are.
“It is not acceptable that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is currently over in the US shaking hands with Donald Trump whose rhetoric and policies have buoyed many of the far right groups across the world. Instead of offering Trump a bowel of shamrock, Leo Varadkar should call out his vile, racist, Islamophobic and anti-immigration policies and rhetoric and he certainly should not invite him to Ireland.”
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the motivation for the attacks could only be hate. “We utterly condemn the appalling terrorist atrocity perpetrated by individuals whose only motivation appears to be blind hate. “Ireland is like New Zealand in many ways. We have a similar size of population and we are a peaceful country with a similarly low level of violence or gun crime. Of course, we bear the scars of the conflict in Northern Ireland, but despite that history, modern society on this island is resolutely against violence.
“Migration to Ireland has brought us a diverse and multi-cultural society, with new mosques being built alongside many other places of worship. That social change has been greatly positive for Ireland. Most people here remember all too well that millions of Irish people left famine and poverty to become migrants workers all over the world. We remember too that the Catholic Irish were often discriminated against in places where they settled.”
Mr Howlin said he hopes that there will never be a similar atrocity in Ireland but warned that authorities must remain vigilant.
“Most of all, we must be vigilant in everything we say and that we permit to be said in our presence. There is no place in Ireland for hate speech or stereotyping of people by religion or ethnicity. There can be no tolerance for intolerance, and I call on all politicians and community leaders to ensure that their words do nothing to foster hate, and instead that they encourage understanding and solidarity between everyone living in Ireland, regardless of their background.”