Noel Grealish called ‘racist’ after he implies money sent abroad by foreign workers comes from criminal activity and fraud

Noel Grealish has caused controversy in the Dáil by claiming that over €10bn has been sent abroad by members of different nationalities who live in Ireland. The independent TD for Galway West also suggested that some of the cash transfers were the proceeds of criminal behaviour and fraud.

TD Ruth Coppinger called Grealish and his comments racist. And Galway Anti Racism Network (GARN) has called on him to resign in light of his comments. 

Sending money abroad

Grealish was speaking during Leader’s Questions when he made the comments. Apparently citing figures from the World Bank, he began by stating that five countries receive billions of euro from people living in Ireland. Poland and Nigeria receive the most amount of money from members of those nationalities who live in Ireland.

Poland, he said, receives €1.54bn and Nigeria receives €3.54bn. 

He then opined that he “can understand” transfers of money to other EU countries, such as the UK. But he then argued that the amount of money sent to Nigeria was “astronomical”. And as a result, he asked taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

Are there mechanisms in place to ensure that the money that leaves this country in personal remittances had been fully accounted for in the Irish revenue and tax system and is not the proceeds of crime or fraud.

The TD went on to declare that: 

we cannot have a situation where vast amounts of money are leaving the country with no proper controls or monitoring in place. 

A “racist”

In response, to Grealish’s question Varadkar replied that “I’m not quite sure where you’re going with this”. And he went on to point out that migrants have a history of sending money home, including Irish people. 

But when Grealish reiterated his question TD Ruth Coppinger spoke out against him. She shouted at Grealish that he was “suggesting people are criminals who work here”. Coppinger also referred to him as a “racist” and a “disgrace”. 

On her Facebook page she defended her actions. She wrote:

I had to jump up and call out racism when Noel Grealish TD spoke suggesting remittances sent home by migrant workers in Ireland were somehow dodgy and potentially illegal. Migrant workers staff our hospitals and provide essential services and don’t need this racist innuendo. If he has proof of something he knows where to go. But it was about stirring up racism, as he’s been doing in Oughterard and elsewhere.

Footage of the exchange

Calls to resign

But activists have also called for Grealish to resign. On its Facebook page GARN declared that he:  

made a point of distinguishing between the money sent home by (white) people to EU Countries and the money sent home by (non-white) people to non-EU Countries. He offered no explanation for this distinction other than his belief that money being sent to countries, where the inhabitants were predominantly people of colour, must be fraudulent or criminal. 

It also highlighted the fact that Irish people have sent money home from abroad for decades. And that Ireland has many non-EU workers. It also drew attention to the fact that the TD is “one of the worst culprits for signing into the Dail [sic] and claiming expenses despite never actually being in attendance”.

And as a result, GARN asserted that:

Enough is enough. Noel Grealish is a racist TD and needs to step down. 

Previous controversy

This is not the first time that Grealish has caused controversy and been accused of racism. During a public meeting about the possibility of asylum seekers being housed in his constituency, he said African asylum seekers who come to Ireland are “economic migrants” who come here to “sponge off the system”. 

And at the same meeting he remarked that “the only genuine refugees in Ireland are Christian ones fleeing ISIS”.

Featured image via Oireachtas TV – Screenshot

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