FG creating 'resentment' on immigration - Lenihan


Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan has accused Fine Gael TDs of attempting to create a “climate of resentment” against people who have come to Ireland to work.

Mr Lenihan’s comments follow a call by Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar yesterday for the Government to consider paying immigrant workers a lump sum payment of up to six months' worth of unemployment benefit if they agree to return home.

“Leo Varadkar’s comments about migrants before a Dáil Committee are designed to create a climate of resentment against people who have come to Ireland to work,” Mr Lenihan said.

He said statements had been issued by Fine Gael deputies in recent months that were of “huge concern” to him and that were “inflammatory and aimed at boosting their own profile at the expense of often vulnerable immigrants”.

“The comments by Deputy Varadkar as a member of the Opposition front bench mark a new low in Irish politics and all the more so given that it appears to be a co-ordinated effort on migrant issues by Fine Gael,” the Minister said.

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said Mr Varadkar's remarks were "nothing short of outrageous" and an "unwelcome lurch towards the far right" by Fine Gael.

"Immigration has increased the population of Ireland, and in so doing, has increased demand for goods and services in this country, contributing in no small way to generating the economic prosperity we enjoyed in recent years," he said.

Mr Varadkar asked the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment yesterday whether there was an opportunity to give three to six months' unemployment benefit to unemployed foreign nationals to encourage them to return to their own countries.

In Spain, unemployed foreign nationals from 20 countries have been offered €18,000 to go home on condition they do not come back for three years.

The Fine Gael TD’s remarks were described during the meeting as "very, very dangerous" by Fianna Fáil Meath TD Thomas Byrne, who said "voluntary repatriation is a new low by Fine Gael".

Later, Mr Byrne said: "This comes in the dishonourable tradition of the British National Party. They are the only other party supporting voluntary repatriation."

The number of such workers in Ireland is now 16 per cent of the total on the Live Register - exactly proportional to the numbers in the workforce.