Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has received widespread criticism for undermining a Sinn Féin senator after she voiced her concerns over how privilege impacts law making decisions.
During a legislative debate, Sinn Féin senator Lynn Boylan raised awareness around the perspective of Fine Gael senator Barry Ward as a “middle class white man” and how this relates to Irish laws. She stated, “You view the law completely different to somebody who is a Traveller, to somebody who is uneducated, to somebody who is maybe a member of the Roma community.
“So it is very different when a landlord says to you, ‘you be careful about filling in the declaration because you could be prosecuted’, and that you know that the law doesn’t treat you the same. It doesn’t treat you the same. So we are trying to be constructive,” Boylan continued.
In response to Boylan’s comments, Ward defended his stance and cited his work with the communities she mentioned. On Twitter, he further expressed, “I’m disappointed by the attitude from Sinn Féin that a “white, middle class man”, even one who has spent his professional life defending accused persons, couldn’t possibly understand what it is like for some people to go before the Courts.”
Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland Colm O’Gorman reacted to Boylan’s Tweet with an insightful thread. He wrote, “I am a white, middle class man. I’m gay, so I know what it is like to experience discrimination. I have parented children of colour & worked to advance the cause of oppressed people for decades. I do not know what it is like to be black, or Roma, or disabled, or a Traveller.”
I am a white, middle class man. I'm gay, so I know what it is like to experience discrimination. I have parented children of colour & worked to advance the cause of oppressed people for decades. I do not know what it is like to be black, or Roma, or disabled, or a Traveller. https://t.co/NoJub8shxn
— Colm O'Gorman (@Colmogorman) August 13, 2020
“Let go of the notion that owning your privilege is some sort of admission of guilt. Instead let it be the beginning of a journey to a new level of understanding. Don’t be threatened by it. Be excited by it, by the new experiences and understanding it can bring,” O’Gorman further stated.
While resharing Boylan’s tweet, Varadkar further added, “If you are white, male or even worse middle-class, Sinn Féin doesn’t want you. So much for an ‘Ireland of equals’.”
If you are white, male or even worse middle-class, Sinn Féin doesn’t want you. So much for an ‘Ireland of equals’ https://t.co/y4FBVsqppq
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) August 12, 2020
Since Varadkar posted his Tweet, he has received widespread criticism for feeding into hurtful and discriminatory rhetoric, especially during a time when conversations and actions towards representation and visibility are all the more vital.
Leo are you absolutely locked? I’m scarlet for your existence rn x https://t.co/OPPFkQdEZa
— James Kavanagh (@JamesKavanagh_) August 12, 2020
As one person shared, “If you’re a white, male or even worse, middle class, you should definitely be listening when people say you don’t know what it’s like to be them. Acknowledge your privilege, don’t be enraged by your ego.”
If you're a white, male or even worse, middle class, you should definitely be listening when people say you don't know what it's like to be them.
Acknowledge your privilege, don't be enraged by your ego. https://t.co/fOhnDdhw3r
— Timi Ogunyemi 🇮🇪 🇳🇬 (@tweetymonkey) August 12, 2020
On Twitter, writer and DJ Conor Behan responded to Varadkar by writing, “Can you please go back to throwing darts at a board with “working class” written on it or whatever you do for fun in the evenings instead of tweeting much like this (this is so horrid. In a year where we’re finally talking about racism in Ireland and so many are struggling financially…).”
Can you please go back to throwing darts at a board w/“working class” written on it or whatever you do fun in the evenings instead of tweeting muck like this (this is so horrid. In a year where we’re finally talking bout racism in Ireland n so many are struggling financially…) https://t.co/QxXJah9A6D
— Conor Behan (@platinumjones) August 13, 2020
Another person shared, “Yep, that’s our Leo, always sticking up for the middle class as he steps over the swathes of homeless and poor people he’s responsible for in his fancy Italian leather shoes.”
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