What Noel Grealish’s comments reveal about racism in politics

Roisin Maguire

In September 2019, Noel Grealish was recorded making racist remarks about people who live in direct provision centres.

At a public meeting discussing the topic of a direct provision center coming to county Galway, he said, “These are people that are coming over here from Africa. . . to sponge off the system here in  Ireland”.

Since these comments, Grealish has not issued an apology but has been criticised by the Dáil.

This is an example of many Irish people’s attitudes towards people who are seeking asylum, many of which are escaping war or death threats on their lives.

Irish people’s attitudes on asylum seekers need to change. For example, I was on a bus from Dublin to Wicklow town where The Grand Hotel has been a direct provision center for a year, and where one woman questioned a young man living in the center. 

The young man explained to her that he had a place secured at UCD to which she replied “I didn’t think refugees could go to college in Ireland” and made sure to talk very slowly so that he would understand. His English was perfect and he said that he had been studying it for most of his life, until war took him from his home. She still replied to this with “but you’re a refugee”.

The people of Wicklow protested against this direct provision center and claimed that it would be bad for the businesses in the town. They had little care for the asylum seekers, whereas the people of Galway made a point of saying that they don’t believe these people should be living in these conditions.

Last year, during the presidential election, Peter Casey landed himself in hot water when he criticised special provisions for travelers. He said, “They are not paying their fair share of taxes in society” and that they are “basically people camping in someone else’s land”.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. Your house price doesn’t start going through the roof as soon as you get two dozen Travellers moving in down the street from you,” he said.

Again, Casey did not back down on his comments and this is another example of racism in politics. This kind of behavior gets reported on but it’s up to other members of the Government to somehow censor it.

These kinds of comments can result in violence against both travellers and asylum seekers, seeing as Casey is influential for some people.

The director of the Fundamental Rights Agency told the Irish Times that there were “worrying patterns” of behavior emerging after a four-year review including 6,000 migrants.

A third of people in the survey said that they have faced discrimination because of skin colour and 38 per cent said that they have been harassed.

Racism is still a huge problem in Ireland, despite how much we pat ourselves on the back for how far we have come to improve our racist views. Racism in politics, in particular, is happening every year with no repercussions.

By Roisin Maguire

Image: RTÉ