VIDEO: George Ferguson accused of racism over "Irish" comment
Bristol mayor candidate George Ferguson has been accused of racism after a comment made at this morning’s hustings event.
At the event, held at the offices of Burges Salmon, the independent candidate was heard to make a comment about what he was saying sounding "Irish".
"I started, with others, the Academy of Urbanism," he said. "That is looking at how we make, have an innovative approach.
"An innovative approach that also learns from the best places, if that isn't too Irish.
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"Excuse me all those Irish in here."
The event also featured candidates Jon Rogers, Marvin Rees and Geoff Gollop, and was chaired by the Post editor Mike Norton.
Twitter users have accused him of “casual racism” and demanded an apology.
You can see a video of George talking, and the moment when he made the comment, here:
But Mr Ferguson said that to describe what he said as “racist” is “absolutely ludicrous” – and said one of his critics, the Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, should “get a life”.
Shortly after midday, Ms McCarthy – who was not at the hustings event - tweeted: “So @GeorgeFergusonx got into a bit of a policy muddle at today's city debate and said "I'm sorry if that sounds a bit Irish". Really George?”
Other Twitter users responded to her comment.
One user called MangleYourMind wrote in response: “Perpetuating usual myth that casual racism is fine as long as the target group is white.”
KevinDobson61 said: “Bit racist!”, while HazelJN wrote: “@GeorgeFergusonx Can you please justify what you meant by "Sorry if this sounds a bit Irish". Also, what are your views on casual racism?”
As reports of the comment spread, C_Quigley wrote: “@GeorgeFergusonx Care to explain your "Sorry if that sounds a bit Irish" comment today? What about apologising to Bristol Irish community?”
Later the same person wrote: “Irish in Bristol? Don't vote @GeorgeFergusonx, who's made anti-Irish comments publicly at hustings today.”
BristolRed – otherwise known as Darren Lewis, the chair of Bristol’s Labour Party - labelled the comment a “racial slur”.
But in response to this a Twitter user called Bristol_Citizen wrote: “@BristolRed @GeorgeFergusonx I wouldn't push this one too hard if I were you Darren. The phrase is poor but accusations of racism are OTT.”
Mr Lewis replied: “@bristol_citizen pffft. Playing at racial stereotypes is crass and racist. Irish as stupid, Welsh as sheep s*******. It is racist.”
Mr Ferguson tweeted: "@kerrymp Stuff and nonsense Kerry! I love the Irish and was implying that they have a more complex and interesting way of looking at things."
Speaking to ThisisBristol this afternoon, Mr Ferguson explained that he had made the comment when he was talking about the complex issue of innovative development in traditional locations.
“There is nobody more positive than me about the Irish,” he said. “There is not a racial bone in my body.
“It is a little bit of political, total, lack of sense of humour.
“I adore the Irish, I go to Ireland whenever I can. It is one of my favourite countries.
“They have a much bigger sense of humour than Kerry McCarthy does.
“What I said was far from a racist comment. I was not implying any stupidity, I was implying that it was a relatively complex argument, not a simple one.
“Irish logic is often way ahead of our logic – they are prepared to embrace opposites.”
He added: “To call that racist is absolutely ludicrous – Kerry McCarthy should get a life.”