Belfast Telegraph

Lord Kilclooney withdraws Leo Varadkar 'the Indian' remark

Peer says he only used term as he couldn't spell name

By Jonathan Bell

Lord Kilclooney said he withdrew a remark in which he referred to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as "the Indian".

The peer was forced defended himself against claims of racism after sparking a Twitter storm on Thursday evening.

The Northern Ireland peer said he used the term as shorthand for Mr Varadkar as he "couldn't spell his name". He later withdrew the remark because of the "upset and misunderstanding caused".

His tweet came in reply comments by the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney who said he would like to see a united Ireland "in his political lifetime".

"Simon Coveney is stirring things up . Very dangerous non statesman like role! Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian," Lord Kilclooney tweeted.

The comments led an onslaught of accusations that to use the term was racist. Something the peer outright rejected.

"Certainly not racism but shorthand for an Indian surname which I could not spell," he responded.

"I should have said PM and not used Indian as shorthand for his name which I must learn to spell correctly," he added when told using the term was "lazy".

"The new Irish PM is 100 per cent Irish and has an Indian name which I am still trying to spell! Term Indian used for shorthand as I am certainly no racist as my past confirms."

Former victims commissioner Patricia MacBride said she would report the comment to the the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards while Alliance's Stephen Farry urged the peer "to have the courage and integrity to withdraw" the remark.

Leo Varadkar replaced Enda Kenny as Taoiseach earlier this year. He is the son of Indian immigrant Ashok from Mumbai and his Irish born mother Miriam from Dungarvan, Co Waterford. They met while working in a hospital in England. Mr Varadkar was born in Ireland after the family spent a period living in India.

As a Twitter storm erupted around the Peer, the BBC presenter Mark Carruthers pointed out that he had been able to spell the Fine Gael leader's name correctly in a previous tweet.

Lord kilclooney responded: "Some tweets say Veradkar and others Varadkar - I now know the latter is correct and am assured he is 100 Per cent Irish with an Indian name. He is not enjoying ioyal (sic) support of Coveney who shot down his idea of an Irish Sea border!"

However, later the former Ulster Unionist Party deputy later retracted his remarks.

He 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."

Kilclooney, formerly John Taylor, is a former unionist minister of Home Affairs, MEP, MLA and MP who left the UUP to join the cross-bench group in the Lords. Having served in every level of government he made his fortune in the newspaper business.

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