Protests against foreign nationals at Dublin hospital a new low, says Taoiseach

Solidarity TD Mick Barry says Government’s housing policy a ‘gift’ for ‘racists’

Protests outside a Dublin hospital against foreign nationals working there is a “new low”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the issue was raised with him by a health trade union leader on Wednesday and he described such behaviour as “appalling”.

The Taoiseach was responding to Solidarity TD Mick Barry during Leaders’ Questions, who said the far-right was coming to prominence through its support of anti-refugee protests.

Mr Barry said the Government had handed racists “their number one gift” through its housing policy, with record numbers forced into emergency accommodation.


In response, Mr Varadkar said there was “absolutely no excuse for racism of any form”.

“I had the opportunity to meet with the trade unions and business leaders this morning under the Labour Employer Economic Forum,” he said.

“One of the leaders of one of the health unions told me that there have been protests outside of a hospital in Dublin in recent times against foreign or foreign nationals who are members of staff in the hospital.

“While there is no excuse for any form of racism, in my view, under any circumstances, it really is a low blow and a new low if healthcare workers who we are so grateful for the fact that they have come here, are now facing protests and racism from those who don’t believe they’re welcome here.

“I think that’s really appalling and it’s something that the Government is going to fight against.”

The Fine Gael leader said the Government would be publishing its national action plan against racism in early March, which would be led by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman.

Mr Varadkar said racists and the far right would blame whatever problem the country was facing on migrants.

“That’s the way it works, that’s the way they think,” Mr Varadkar said.

“If you’ve a housing crisis, it’ll be ‘the foreigners are taking their homes’. If we have an unemployment crisis, it’ll be ‘the foreigners are taking our jobs’.

“If we’ve got high levels of crime, they’ll blame the foreigners for the high levels of crime. If there’s violence against women, one of the oldest tropes in the book, they will blame that on migrants and people who’ve come here from overseas, particularly those who are brown or black.”

Mr Varadkar added that no one in the Dáil wanted to see the issue of race or migration become “central stage in our politics, most of all somebody like me, given my colour and my family background and the fact that I am bi-racial”.

The Taoiseach asked Mr Barry to consider his approach carefully and not to “inadvertently play their game” despite his good intentions.

“Don’t make any excuses for them. No matter what problem the country faces, the far right and racists will blame that on migrants,” Mr Varadkar said.

“If we didn’t have a housing crisis, and we had an unemployment crisis, they would blame that on the migrants instead.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times