Ireland needs to learn from US race relations ‘mistakes’ - Leo Varadkar

Young people of colour not always treated 'as though they are as Irish as the rest of us', Taoiseach says

Ireland needs to learn from the failings of countries like Britain and the United States when it comes to race relations, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

US President Donald Trump could have had "a better response" to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, which sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests and riots across the country, Mr Varadkar said.

“Even though we may not have police brutality in Ireland … We do have racism, we need to be wise to that,” Mr Varadkar said on Friday.

Young people of colour growing up in Ireland were “not treated always as though they are as Irish as the rest of us,” he said. “Black lives matter, but also black feelings matter too,” he said.


The next government should focus on “rooting out” racism in Ireland, and look at why the country did not have higher proportions of ethnic minorities in senior positions of various fields.

“We don’t see many black or brown judges, or in the Dáil I’m the only one I think at the moment, don’t see many presenters on TV for example, and that needs to change,” he said.

"We have an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of countries like Britain and France, and the US. We can learn from their mistakes around race relations and get it right here," he said.

Mr Varadkar made the comments during a television interview with Pat Kenny on Virgin Media One.

Commenting on whether Fine Gael would benefit from a second election, Mr Varadkar said some in his party had the "flutters" from recent rises in opinion polls, attributed in part to the Government's response to the coronavirus.

“They imagine the possibility of a new election and us doing better, I’m not one of those,” he said.

“Even if we had an election and we gained seats, and did a bit better perhaps, we’d still have to go and talk to other parties about forming a government,” he said.

Defending his party’s decision not to approach Sinn Féin for Government formation talks, Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin “don’t want to be in Government.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has consistently criticised Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for refusing to speak to her party in coalition talks.

“Government is hard, Government means being unpopular, it means making decisions, sometimes it means going back on promises that you made in good faith, they are not up for it,” Mr Varadkar said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times