Peer’s attack on Leo Varadkar ignites racism row

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A member of the House of Lords dubbed him a “typical Indian”.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar was at the centre of a racism row after a Member of the House of Lords dubbed him a “typical Indian” in response to accusations of failure to notify authorities during a trip to Northern Ireland.

The comments by Lord Kilclooney, a crossbench member of the House of Lords, followed Mr. Varadkar’s trip to Northern Ireland on Monday, which was criticised by some for failing to follow protocol. While Mr. Varadkar’s office insisted all protocol had been followed, in response to a BBC story that quoted a Democratic Unionist Party MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as accusing Mr. Varadkar of “poor manners ”, Lord Kilclooney, a former senior politician in the Ulster Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, tweeted that he was a “typical Indian”.

Lord Kilclooney declined to withdraw his comment insisting that he was “no racist”. “My point was that the PM had upset Unionists more than Irish PMs had!” He added: “I wanted to highlight that, unlike native Irish PMs, he had contravened the normal courtesies of visiting the U.K. and I certainly have succeeded. As one who works for Indians in the U.K., I am most definitely no racist — far from it — I admire them.”

It is not the first time Lord Kilclooney has raised Mr. Varadkar’s Indian ancestry. In a Tweet last year, he faced criticism over a post in which he described Mr. Varadkar as “the Indian”. He withdrew the tweet a few hours later because he had “caused upset and misunderstanding”.

Members of the House of Lords criticised his comments. “It is sad to see John Taylor, now Lord Kilclooney, make an offensive and racist remark about the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, “ Lord Stewart Wood of Anfield, a Labour peer, told The Hindu. “Referring to anyone, let alone the Irish Taoiseach, as a ‘typical Indian’ is disparaging and insulting. Comments such as this should have no place in our politics, and I hope he apologises as soon as possible”

“I find this remark appalling given that to us and the Indian diaspora around the world it is a matter of enormous pride to have Leo Varadkar as one of the first Indian origin Prime Ministers in the European Union,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, a crossbench peer and founder of Cobra Beer.

“His mother is Irish, he was born in Ireland, if he isn’t a native who is?,” he told The Hindu. “I was born outside the U.K. but I am British and consider myself British.”

Mr. Varadkar, 39, became Ireland’s Taoiseach in June 2017, after comfortably winning a leadership contest for the Fine Gael Party. The son of a Mumbai doctor, who moved to England and then Ireland, and an Irish nurse, he has rejected attempts to define him by single-issues or identities. “I’m not a half-Indian politician or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter… it is part of my character, I suppose,” he told Ireland’s RTE Radio station in 2015.

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