A former Ulster unionist has sparked a racism row after referring to Ireland’s Indian-origin prime minister Leo Varadkar as a “typical Indian” in a tweet.
John Taylor (Lord Kilclooney) wrote the comment in response to a report that quoted Democratic Unionist Party MP Jeffrey Donaldson as saying that Varadkar’s visit on Monday to Northern Ireland was “outside of normal protocol” and showed “poor manners.”
The tweet was criticised by many as being racist, with Democratic Unionist Party MLA Christopher Stalford tweeting: “I don’t know what John Taylor (Lord Kilclooney) thinks he’s playing at but he doesn’t speak for me. Absolutely ridiculous behaviour.”
Former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt too tweeted that the comment could not be interpreted as anything but racist.
However, Taylor denied charges of racism.
“You fail to understand that racially he is half Indian and legally he is Irish. Some day you will learn to know the difference in these terms. The Indians are a great race and I know as a Member of the British/Indian APPG helping Indians almost daily,” he said.
Reacting to the controversy, Varadkar, born to Indian father and an Irish mother, said he initially thought the tweet was from a parody account. He said, “In terms of Lord Kilclooney’s tweet, I did see it. I actually had thought that was a parody account, but seemingly it’s not. It actually is for real, but that’s all I’ll say about that.”
“It is not racially abusive as he himself has confirmed he is half Indian. That is great and not to be dismissed as the Indians are a great race,” he added. “However he has damaged North/South relations by being continually offensive and provocative to the Unionist majority in NIreland.”
This is not the first time Taylor has played up Varadkar’s Indian lineage.
In a tweet in November, Taylor had referred to Varadkar as “the Indian,” but he later deleted the comment.