Kilclooney at center of racism storm

Posted By: November 24, 2017

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, November 24, 2017

FORMER Ulster Unionist deputy leader Lord Kilclooney is at the center of a racism storm after calling Taoiseach Leo Varadar “the Indian”.

The cross-bench peer faced a deluge of criticism over the remarks on social media last night.

He was responding to developments after the Republic’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney told an Oireachtas committee he would like to see a united Ireland in his “political lifetime”.

On Twitter, the former Ulster Unionist MP, above left, said: “Simon Coveney is stirring things up. Very dangerous non-statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian.”

Mr. Varadkar, above right, is the son of a Bombay-born doctor and an Irish mother.

When challenged by others – including Senator Catherine Noone and former Victims’ Commissioner Patricia McBride – Mr. Taylor denied he was being racist.

He attempted to defend himself saying it was “shorthand for an Indian surname which I could not spell”. However, he later withdrew the tweet.

The row followed a surprise statement from Mr. Coveney yesterday to an Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Committee.

The 45-year-old Fine Gael deputy leader said he was a “constitutional nationalist” who aspired to a 32-county republic.

“I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime – if possible, in my political lifetime,” he said.

Mr. Coveney’s remarks come against a background of deteriorating Anglo-Irish relations. Several commentators believe uncertainty around Brexit has brought Dublin-London relations to their lowest ebb since the early 1980s.

His comments are understood to be the first time in decades that a high-ranking member of the Republic’s government has voiced such unequivocal pro-unity sentiments.

The remarks will be seen by some as a bid to ‘out-green’ Sinn Féin, which has been enjoying strong electoral growth in the south over recent years and could potentially be a partner in the Republic’s next government.

However, Mr. Coveney has stressed that any moves toward Irish unification should be careful, learn from the past and ensure more steps are taken to protect and include a unionist minority.

Last year Mr. Varadkar, then the minister for social protection, said he envisaged a united Ireland “at some point in the future”.

But speaking last month, the Taoiseach said he was not in favor of changing the North’s constitutional status on a “50 percent plus one basis”.

Meanwhile, during yesterday’s committee session Mr. Coveney also warned that a proposed amnesty for British soldiers accused of crimes during the Troubles has the potential to undermine legacy processes.