Independent TD in hot water after being branded a ‘racist’ by colleagues

“Implying that a lot of the money going out of Ireland to Nigeria is from illegal funds is really implying that all Nigerians are fraudulent and looking to game the system

Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish has been accused of “disgraceful racism” after remarks he made during Leaders Questions in the Dail on Tuesday. The remarks related to remittances being sent to Nigeria from Ireland by Nigerians living in Ireland. Mr Grealish, who has previously courted controversy after comments made about African migrants whom he labelled as “spongers” at a public meeting in Oughterard, queried the amount of remittances being sent to Nigeria and stated that the amounts were “astronomical”.  He claimed that according to World Bank figures, €3.54 billion in remittances had been sent from Ireland to Nigeria and that though he could understand money being transferred to other EU countries and the UK, he couldn’t understand such a large figure being sent to a non-EU country. Addressing the Taoiseach directly, he asked if there were mechanisms in place to ensure that this money had been “fully accounted for with the Irish Revenue and tax system” and was not “the proceeds of crime or fraud”.

His comments provoked some reaction in the Dail with TD Ruth Coppinger taking to her feet and calling it “disgraceful racism” and calling for him to sit down.  The Taoiseach appeared visibly taken aback and stated that he was sure the Deputy’s figures were correct but that he wasn’t “quite sure where “the Deputy was “going with this”.  The Taoiseach reminded Mr Grealish of the fact that historically Irish people abroad also sent back remittances to their families and requested that he provide evidence if he knew of anyone sending money abroad that wasn’t theirs.

Independent TD for Dublin South Central, Joan Collins, stated in her remarks in the Dail on Wednesday that Mr Grealish’s comments were “dog whistle racism” and that it was “outrageous” that  “deputies in this Chamber are prepared, in order to further their own political careers to whip up fears…” and “…peddle myths regarding asylum seekers.”

Reaction to Mr Grealish’s comments amongst the Nigerian community in Ireland has been vociferous with many Nigerians expressing shock and concern.  Yemi Adenuga, a Fine Gael County Councillor in Meath originally from Nigeria speaking to the Irish Times on Wednesday (13th November) remarked that his comments were “quite dangerous” and that he was “trying to turn one group of people against another group”. 

Timi Ogunyemi, who was born in Nigeria but has lived in Ireland for 17 years said in an interview for Joe.ie that Mr Grealish’s comments were “incredibly damaging” and that by implying that a lot of the money going out of Ireland to Nigeria was from  illegal funds  was really implying that “all Nigerians are fraudulent and looking to game the system.”

The Immigrant Council of Ireland was also contacted by the Irish Times for a response to Mr Grealish’s comments and stated that it was “very disturbed” by the comments and how an elected representative had used a public platform to scrutinise one group in a very negative manner.

The Nigerian embassy in Dublin declined to comment.

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