By Anthony Neeson
People might see a lot of “typicals” in Northern Ireland politics, but “Indian” is a new one
Onetime Ulster Unionist Party deputy leader, Lord Kilclooney, has denied charges of racism after describing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in a tweet as a "typical Indian.”
Earlier, the DUP had criticized the taoiseach for visiting counties Down and Armagh where his engagements included visits to Warrenpoint Harbour and an integrated school.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Leo Varadkar’s visit is another demonstration of the poor manners and disrespect which appears to be the Irish government’s Brexit strategy.
“Having told unionists just over a month ago that he recognized statements and actions by the Irish government were unhelpful or intrusive, he follows this up with a visit which no local representative is informed about, and none of the other normal protocol is followed."
Donaldson’s criticism was followed by the Kilclooney swipe, though the former John Taylor, 80, quickly denied that he was racist.
"I am certainly no racist and in particular have an admiration for Indians. A member of the British/Indian APPG, only yesterday I had a reply from 10 Downing St asking for a relaxation of visas for Indians. My point was that the PM had upset Unionists more than Irish PMs had!"
Last November, Kilcooney stirred controversy in a tweet by referring to Mr. Varadkar as "the Indian," this while commenting on a story involving Irish foreign affairs minister, Simon Coveney.
He opined on twitter: "Simon Coveney is stirring things up. Very dangerous non statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian."
Kilclooney later tweeted: "In Twitter one is restricted to a limited number of words and so for shorthand I used the term Indian for the new PM in Dublin. This has caused upset and misunderstanding and so I withdraw it. I am no way racist and accept that Varadkar is 100 percent Irish Citizen."
Mr. Varadkar has an Indian father, an Irish mother, and was born in Ireland.
Meanwhile, nationalist politicians have criticized Britain’s Brexit minister, David Davis, after he made his own unannounced visit to the border.
SDLP MLA, Claire Hanna, claimed it was nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. Coming two years after Britain voted to leave the EU, it was Davis’ first visit to the border which is one of the main sticking points of the Brexit negotiations.
“The surprise visit to the Irish border by David Davis is ridiculous,” said Hanna.
“Local politicians, organizations and the media would want to and should have the opportunity to put questions to the minister on his trip.
“A sceptic may say he wanted to duck and dive any questioning. Maybe the minister is troubled that we might actually have asked him if he learned anything and how he plans to stop a hard border here when his government continues to dig its heels in on the customs union.”
Hanna said the border shouldn’t have been an “after thought” for the Brexit minister.
“It’s clear for all of us to see that the priorities of the UK Government lay with keeping their own cabinet happy and keeping criticism from the DUP to a minimum, not with protecting the rights and economic interests of people in Northern Ireland.”
After his flying visit to Armagh, Mr. Davis’s department apologized for not notifying the local MP, Newry and Mourne’s Mickey Brady of Sinn Féin, this being normal protocol when a government minister is visiting a constituency.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: “This was an administrative oversight for which we are happy to apologize.”