Fine Gael TD says comments by party byelection candidate ‘dangerous’

Verona Murphy, FG candidate in Wexford, said some asylum seekers ‘infiltrated by Isis’

Fine Gael byelection candidate in Wexford Verona Murphy with  Louise Hennessey from Southknock, New Ross, and  Cllr Bridin Murphy. Photograph: Patrick Browne

Fine Gael byelection candidate in Wexford Verona Murphy with Louise Hennessey from Southknock, New Ross, and Cllr Bridin Murphy. Photograph: Patrick Browne

 

Remarks by a Fine Gael byelection candidate about Islamic State (Isis) and migrants represent “ignorant, ill-informed, dangerous rhetoric that every right-minded individual should challenge”, a TD in her own party has said.

Verona Murphy, who is president of the Irish Road Haulage Association and a candidate for Fine Gael in the byelection in Wexford, had said Islamic State was “a big part of the migrant population” and that services were needed in Ireland to “alleviate that type of indoctrination”.

Noel Rock, who is the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, criticised her comments on Monday.

Ms Murphy made the comments to The Irish Times while canvassing in Wexford last Friday. Over the weekend she became embroiled in controversy when she told RTÉ on Sunday she believed some asylum seekers coming to Ireland have to be “deprogrammed” as they “carry angst” from being in conflict zones.

She also said some asylum seekers may have been “infiltrated by Isis”.

Ms Murphy apologised for these comments on Sunday.

In her comments to The Irish Times, Ms Murphy said Isis is a “big part” of the overall population of migrants in Ireland, and society needed to protect itself from such indoctrination.

Sinister

Fianna Fáil has described the remarks as “sinister”. The party’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, said that “trying to isolate the migrant community in our country and stating without any evidence that there is a sizable Isis presence among them is beyond irresponsible. It is sinister, it is deliberate, and it needs to be called out.”

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “dissociate himself and his party from these remarks”.

However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney defended Ms Murphy, and said “there are many people who may want to twist people’s words or put meaning on statements that perhaps weren’t meant”.

“I know Verona well, and I can assure you she is not some kind of right-wing individual – she is a really good candidate, wants to be a public representative and has represented business people for a number of years very well. I think she is going to do really well in the byelection.”

Asked on Friday if she had experienced anti-migrant sentiment while canvassing, Ms Murphy replied the most important thing was to not return to the type of conflict seen during the troubles in the North.

She said many people coming to Ireland were coming from conflict zones, and “we have to start to realise that”.

Direct provision centre

She also referenced the recent controversy in Oughterard, Co Galway, where two weeks of protests by residents in the area prompted a developer to withdrew a plan to redevelop an empty hotel as a direct provision centre.

“If you look at what they were proposing in Oughterard, that was very overpowering. I myself believe that we do need to integrate these people in a way that they almost have to be reprogrammed.

“Now that is a terrible way...it sounds callous, but I am under no illusion that Isis is a big part of the migrant population...we have to protect our own society, and we do have to integrate them, we do have to give them the support services to alleviate that type of indoctrination, and I think that is where Oughterard people were coming from,” Ms Murphy told The Irish Times.

“It wasn’t that they were racist, but the services were not going to be available. It is very difficult for people to come in and integrate in a normal setting. Oughterard is extremely rural, and in that case I would be saying that they were right. It was portrayed wrong because of Noel Grealish’s comments.”