London's deputy mayor Richard Barnes has apologized after making disparaging remarks about Irish builders last week , according to the Irish Times.
During a debate of the London Assembly's transport committee on the cost of building a high-speed rail between London and the north of England, the Conservative Barnes questioned the estimates that have been put forward for refurbishing Euston Station.
“Are they like most Irish builders, saying it’s going to be roughly that? Are we working on estimates?” he asked and licked his finger as if he was checking the wind direction.
Dublin-born Baroness Dee Doocey, a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, criticized Barnes.
“I find the remarks made offensive and incredibly ill-informed,” she said. “It is shocking that such comments were made at City Hall by someone who has a key role on equality issues across the capital.
“Would he ever dream of making such comments about any other community in London?”
Said Labour Assembly member Murad Qureshi: “I was taken aback by the comment. Given the huge contribution made by the Irish in building London, this is particularly offensive.
“What is even more shocking is that he made these comments as the mayor’s lead on equality and diversity policies. He should make an unreserved apology to the Irish in London. He’s been pretty exemplary on the subject of equality other than this.”
Federation of Irish Societies chief executive Jennie McShannon said the federation was “surprised by Mr Barnes’s inappropriate and unnecessary remark”, adding that “such throwaway comments from the mayor’s deputy suggests a somewhat cavalier attitude towards equalities”.
She also added that Irish builders had erected much of London’s skyline and helped to build London’s Olympic stadiums on time and under budget.
“What he considers acceptable and humorous is in fact an outdated and frankly disrespectful view of the many outstanding Irish building companies in Britain.”
Barnes apologized in a statement on Friday.
“This was a throwaway line and no offence was intended. As someone who recognises the contribution of Irish people to London life and has a lot of Irish friends it was not my intention to impugn anyone. I apologise for any offence that might have been caused.”