Former taoiseach Leo Varadkar raises concerns about racism in Late Late Show interview

Varadkar, who resigned last month, declined to be drawn on whether he would run in the next general election

Former taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed concern about the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Ireland, stating people of colour are now experiencing racism “going about their daily lives”.

Mr Varadkar resigned as taoiseach and as a Cabinet minister last month, a decision that took much of the political and public sphere by surprise.

Speaking about his resignation on the Late Late Show on Friday night, Mr Varadkar said actually going through with his decision to resign was the “hardest part” and he “nearly chickened out” the night before.

However, he said Fine Gael had to do better in the next general election, and he no longer felt he was the right person to lead the party.


Being taoiseach was a huge honour, he said, but acknowledged it took a toll on him personally.

“When you’re taoiseach, you’re always taoiseach. It’s very long hours, it’s most evenings, most weekends. You’re always concerned and worrying about the problems the country faces. And that shouldn’t be forever.”

Mr Varadkar said he is “worried about the extent to which migration and anti-migrant feelings are going to become part of our politics”.

The former Fine Gael leader was speaking the day after violent clashes between gardaí and people objecting to the proposed use of a local building as accommodation for international protection applicants in Co Wicklow.

“Don’t get me wrong, migration is a serious issue, it’s an important topic. We need to have debate about it, we need to have a policy on it,” he said.

“But it needs to be done in a way that is respectful, that doesn’t leave space for anger, and doesn’t leave space for hatred or violence. That’s something I hope as a country we can avoid as best we can.”

Mr Varadkar said migration was a topic that brings out the “best and worst” in people.

“What I’m seeing now in Ireland that I don’t like to see, just to give you an example, I have a friend who is married to someone who is black. And they have kids and their kids are like me, they’re biracial. And for the first time, they’re worried about their kids,” he said.

“And their kids are Irish, their mother is Irish, they grew up here. And now for the first time, they are experiencing racism going about their daily lives.”

He added: “Yes, you might take the view that you don’t want any more people to come to the country or you don’t think we should accept refugees, whether genuine or not. But we need to be sensitive to how that sounds to people. People who need to come to our country. Or people of colour who live in our country, and have no other home.”

Speaking about Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Varadkar said he would not miss their clashes in the Dáil.

Asked if she would be a good taoiseach, he said: “I honestly don’t know. That needs to be seen. Or it may never be seen, who knows? That depends on how people vote in the election.”

On his future, Mr Varadkar declined to answer whether he would be running in the next general election, stating that would be something he would decide in the “next eight to 10 weeks” following the local elections.

However, he said Senator Emer Currie would be his natural successor if he chooses not to run.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times