Victorian MP Marlene Kairouz landed herself in hot water this week when she made a sweeping comment about Irish people during the launch of a campaign against dodgy workmen. Kairouz, who is minister for Victorian Consumer Affairs, said that scam artists “know where to go, who to target. As soon as they get cash in their hands, they’re gone.”
“If anybody knocks on your door that has an Irish accent, automatically ask them to leave,” Kairouz advised, referring to a recent spate of scams carried out by people from Ireland and the UK.
No sooner were the words out of her mouth than people picked up on the “racist” slur, and the fact that Kairouz had targeted Irish people rather than including any English-accented people in the warning. As social media erupted, the Irish press ran with the comments and pointed out that Kairouz’s broad, overarching statement cast the entirety of Ireland in a bad light.
The Australian Embassy in Ireland issued a statement in response to Kairouz’s comments, and directed their audience to Kairouz’s Twitter for the official apology.
“Over more than two centuries, people of Irish birth and heritage have made a hugely positive contribution to Australia, and continue to do so,” the statement reads, with the embassy admitting that it was aware of the comments. “The Embassy notes that Minister Kairouz has subsequently issued a statement on Twitter, acknowledging that her words had been poorly chosen, apologising for the offence caused by her comments.”
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The post on the embassy Facebook page linked to Kairouz’s apology.
“This is absolutely APPALLING! I am utterly disgusted with her racist comment. Frankly, she should resign,” one person commented on the embassy’s Facebook post.
One person said they thought it was a hoax when first asked about it. “How galling to find out that our representatives think this way, and in so doing, tarnish our reputation, and make life unnecessarily awkward. Disappointing.”
“Yesterday I made a comment at a scam awareness campaign launch that caused offence to people with Irish heritage,” Kairouz wrote on Twitter. “Recent scammers have been backpackers from the UK & Ireland & I was giving this info to the public. I admit I delivered this [message] poorly. I sincerely apologise for causing offence and my poor choice of words.” [sic]
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No one seemed impressed by Kairouz’s fairly low-key apology published to her 2,200 followers.
“There is a bar in my little village in Ireland that has more followers than you so maybe a TV apology would be better,” one person commented on the posts. Others echoed the sentiment, saying that a TV apology would be most appropriate since the remarks about Irish people were made on TV in the first place. Some believed that a Facebook apology would be better, since that was where most of the uproar was taking place.
However, Kairouz did not heed the requests from the public and her latest posts about tenant rights and drug rehabilitation plans across Victoria have become a stomping ground for those demanding everything from an apology to a resignation from Kairouz.
The president of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce has also issued an open invitation to Kairouz to “apologise to some of the Irish community in person”.
“If you knocked on the door of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce … we would welcome you without judgement and you would meet hard working Irish Australians who deserve more than the negative stereotype you have offered. In fact I’m sure you will be inspired by some of their stories which involve hard work, persistence, courage and much more,” the comment on Kairouz’s Facebook reads.
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Kairouz has yet to make any other public response about the remarks.
What do you think of Kairouz’s comments? Were they racist? Did she go too far?