By Mark Lynch
Independent Galway TD, Noel Grealish, has come under heavy scrutiny for comments he made regarding African migrants. Speaking at a public meeting in Oughterard about the possibility of a direct provision centre in the town, Mr. Grealish claimed that African migrants are simply “economic migrants”, who are here to “sponge off the system here in Ireland”. He has since received huge backlash for making this claim, both on the university campus here at NUI Galway and further afield.
Students’ Union Vice-President and Welfare and Equality Officer, Brandon Walsh, has told SIN that the Students’ Union “completely condemns the foul, racist comments made by Mr. Grealish”. He continued, “As a Students’ Union, we fully acknowledge the immense diversity of the student body and work to support and advocate for all of those students, regardless of their background”. Mr. Walsh was also keen to emphasise that this is also the case for students who have come to Ireland to flee the danger of their home countries. “We pride our campus on being a safe space for students who are asylum seekers or in direct provision and do our best to support them. We have recently been awarded the status of University of Sanctuary and we also offer scholarships to undergrad and postgrad students who are immigrants/asylum seekers and also members of the travelling community”. Brandon Walsh wants to ensure that “all of our students are safe, happy and supported, so please contact us if you ever need anything!”
NUI Galway also has a student society dedicated to welcoming refugees. Fáilte Refugees Soc added its strong condemnation of the “disgusting, outright racist remarks made by Noel Grealish TD”, adding, “The meeting in Oughterard (regarding a potential direct provision centre) acted as a platform for racist comments, which was expected to an extent, but what was not expected was for an acting TD to hijack the genuine concerns of locals, by inciting racial and religious hatred”. Fáilte Refugees Soc says it’s “very worrying to hear these comments being made by a TD who represents Galway, the most multi-cultural city in the country, not just because they are outright lies, but also because it has absolutely nothing to do with opposing direct provision because of how inhumane it is, and even less so with rural towns not having adequate resources”.
There has been a wave of calls for Noel Grealish to apologise, withdraw his comments and resign, with Fáilte Refugees Soc stating, “We are very upset to see a TD use his influence to fuel hatred and we demand that he revoke his comments and apologise, and we are also calling on his resignation”. This sentiment was echoed by the Galway Anti-Racism Network, who also wants the Independent TD to step down. Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition calling on Deputy Grealish to apologise, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also requested, first off, that he clarify his comments, before later calling on him to withdraw these remarks. Mr. Grealish has not made any public statements since the meeting in Oughterard.