A former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Ireland and member of the House of Lords has drawn widespread criticism after referring to Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris as “the Indian” in a tweet.
The Speaker of the Lords, Norman Fowler, was among those to demand Baron Kilclooney retract his remarks about Harris, who is the first black and Indian American person to be elected to the role, according to reports.
The 82-year-old peer was widely criticized after tweeting, “What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?”
Fowler went on to say, according to reports: “Lord Kilclooney should retract and apologize. This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history. The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer.”
Labor’s Lords leader, Angela Smith, said she would be making an official complaint, the reports have said.
“I am so angry about this comment. It is despicable and beneath contempt and totally unacceptable from anyone – but especially from someone in parliament,” Smith said.
Harris made history as the first female, first black and first Indian American vice-president-elect.
MPs and public figures condemned the tweet as racist. The shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said, “She is called Kamala Harris. Please send this awful comment straight back to the dark ages,” according to reports.
The Alliance party MP for North Down, Stephen Farry, said the tweet was “disgusting and racist”.
Reports said that Labor shadow minister Wes Streeting said “action must be taken” over the tweet and added, “This sort of racism would be unacceptable from anyone, but from a member of the House of Lords it beggars belief.”
When challenged, Lord Kilclooney, who sits as a crossbench peer, claimed he had not “known her name yet” and denied it was racist, it said.
“Whilst Biden is proud to be Irish and Harris is rightly proud of her Indian background I certainly withdraw my reference to her as an Indian as it seems to have upset some people,” he tweeted. “I did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian. Most people understood. Racist NO.”
In 2018, Kilclooney was the subject of complaints after described Ireland’s then taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, a “typical Indian,” which he later said was a mistake, the report said.