The Mayor of an Irish town has resigned after provoking a storm over his derogatory comments about African migrants living in his constituency.
Local councillors strongly dissociated themselves from remarks made by Darren Scully, Mayor of the Co Kildare town of Naas near Dublin, in a radio interview. His party, Fine Gael, which heads the Irish government, also condemned the comments and one politician reported him to police.
Mr Scully said he would no longer represent "black Africans" who lived in his area because of their attitude when seeking help from him on housing issues. "I have been met with aggressiveness and bad manners," he said. "I have also been met with the race card; 'Oh yeah, you will help white people, but you don't help black people'," he said in the Tuesday morning interview.
"After a while of this I made a decision that I was not going to take on representations from Africans. I've said that I would be very courteous to them and that I would pass on their query to other public representatives who would take their concerns."
In tendering his resignation, Mr Scully said he abhorred racism in all its forms, and that he wished to apologise unreservedly. He added that he now realised his remarks "have caused deep hurt and offence in all communities and in all sectors of society". The torrent of condemnation is taken as an indication that such sentiments are regarded in modern Ireland as entirely unacceptable. In the past decade, the Republic has taken in tens of thousands of immigrants from many parts of the world. The country, once described as "monocultural," is now seen as multicultural.
Most believe Ireland has made the transition to a multicultural society with reasonable success. Four years ago, the Nigerian-born Rotimi Adebari was elected as Ireland's first black Mayor in the nearby county of Laois. Mr Scully's remarks were reported to police under incitement-to-hatred legislation by Aodhan O'Riordain, a member of the Irish parliament. She said: "He made really stupid, racist comments. In a country like ours, that's not good enough anymore."
The organisation, Show Racism the Red Card, said there was no place for racism in politics and the Integration Centre described the comments as "truly idiotic". A spokesman said: "This is one of the first times an Irish politician has so blatantly played the race card. He needs to be expelled."