AN AUSTRALIAN MP has issued an apology after her comment linking Irish accents with con artists were attacked as racist.
Speaking at the launch of a campaign against dodgy workmen, Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz warned people: "If anybody knocks on your door that has an Irish accent, automatically ask them to leave."
She said the scam artists "know where to go, who to target, as soon as they get cash in their hands, they're gone."
Her remarks were broadcast on Channel 9 News, and introduced by reporter Brett McLeod as "a very, very broad warning."
The broadcast was followed by a swift backlash on social media, with one Facebook user commenting: "Absolutely no need to slam all Irish people and make racist comments like that. The Minister needs to apologise to the hard working Irish people in this country."
Another added: "How is this different then saying don't open your door to any person of colour or ethnicity? Imagine in this day and age people can be so blind."
Others pointed out that there are many Irish nurses in Australian hospitals and carrying out home visits. "Shame on you for your ignorance and sweeping statement," one said.
The story has gone all around the UK since Ms Kairouz's remarks were broadcast on Monday, with the BBC and the Irish Independent publishing stories on the drama.
The Australian Embassy in Ireland went into damage control mode, issuing a statement that read: "Over more than two centuries, people of Irish birth and heritage have made a hugely positive contribution to Australia, and continue to do so.
"This was publicly acknowledged recently by the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, who told President Higgins in Canberra: 'The warmth of the history and the family ties between Australia and Ireland couldn't be greater. Australia is the most Irish country in the world, (apart from Ireland, of course)…'
"The best way to sum up the attitudes of the Australian people towards the Irish is again to quote the Prime Minister: 'You're so warmly welcomed. You're among friends and among family.'"
Ms Kairouz has now issued an apology on Twitter, writing: "Yesterday I made a comment at a scam awareness campaign launch that caused offence to people with Irish heritage.
"Recent scammers have been backpackers from the UK & Ireland & I was giving this info to the public. I admit I delivered this msg poorly.
"I sincerely apologise for causing offence and my poor choice of words."
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