Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has compared the far right to the far left in the Dáil after being asked to admit to his government’s failings in tackling racism. Varadkar claimed that both ideologies push conspiratorial thinking about elites and bosses. He said they “aren’t very different to me”.
The Taoiseach also defended direct provision in the Dáil. He argued that the system provides free food and shelter to asylum seekers. And it is not comparable to the racism seen in the US.
Varadkar made the comments on Thursday 4 June in response to a question from Richard Boyd Barrett. The People Before Profit (PBP) TD attacked the response of Donald Trump to protests currently rocking the US. He then asked the taoiseach if he would “condemn Donald Trump for his use of racism and police brutality”.
Going further he queried,
Will you match your words against racism by eliminating the racist injustice that is the direct provision system, an inhumane and degrading system that marks people of colour out as different, as other, as separate, and consequently leads to encouraging that poison and racism?
Varakdar responded by stating that Trump’s reaction to the police’s murder of Floyd was inadequate. But he then attacked Boyd and left-wing politics, saying “almost all of your politics, deputy, is divisive and populist”.
He went on, declaring that:
It’s all about setting up ideas about elites versus the masses, bosses against the others, conspiracies, tearing people down, setting people apart. It’s anger. It’s rage.
And given this, he stated:
The far right and the far left aren’t very different to me. It’s the same kind of thing. You know, conspiracy of elites against the people. Simple answers to complex problems. You’re not that different really.
Varakdar also justified the direct provision system. In response to comments from Labour’s Alan Kelly, the Fine Gael leader declared that there is no comparison between the murder of George Floyd and direct provision. He asserted:
Direct provision, ultimately, is a service offered by the state. It’s not compulsory, it’s not detention and involves people being provided with free accommodation, food, heat, lighting, health care, education and also some spending money.
Varakdar has been criticised for his comments. The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) argued that the taoiseach “wants us to accept that asylum seekers should be treated less than he’d be treated if he was to become destitute tomorrow”.
The group has also recently drawn attention to the fact that social distancing is impossible to observe in direct provision. This is because of the cramped conditions many asylum seekers are forced live in.
And in a video posted on her Twitter account, Labour Senator Annie Hoey said she was “appalled at the taoiseach’s remarks”.
Featured image via Oireachtas TV – Screenshot