Government insists it has ‘no formal arrangement’ with Noel Grealish

TD accused of racism over remarks on Nigerian workers often supports Government in Dáil

November 12th, 2019: Noel Grealish TD has been called "racist" and "a disgrace" by fellow TDs after he asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if the government was ensuring that all money transferred out of Ireland to non-EU countries was being properly taxed. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

The Government has insisted it has no arrangement with the Galway West TD Noel Grealish who has been accused of using “suspect” and “inflated” figures on personal remittances sent home by Nigerians living in Ireland.

As politicians from across the political spectrum condemned remarks made by Mr Grealish in the Dáil on Tuesday and demanded he withdraw them, the Fine Gael-Independent Alliance was urged to end any deal it may have with him. Mr Grealish has tended to support the Government, or agree to being paired, in tight votes in the Dáil leading to speculation he may have brokered an agreement.

However, the Taoiseach’s spokesman insisted last night that no such deal existed.

“Mr Grealish votes for the Government from time to time. There is no formal arrangement between him and the Government. The Taoiseach has made his views on the remarks very clear on two successive days in the Dáil,” he said.

Yesterday in the Dáil, the Taoiseach confirmed that the Central Statistics Office had calculated €17 million a year was being sent home by the 17,000 Nigerian-born people in Ireland. That is a fraction of the sum quoted by Mr Grealish in the Dáil when he said €3.54 billion had been sent home in recent years.

The Independent TD had relied on figures from the World Bank on remittances from Ireland to Nigeria, which the Taoiseach said were “open to serious scrutiny”. Mr Grealish made no reference to the CSO figures despite them being sent to him in response to a parliamentary question on October 22nd.

Minister for Health Simon Harris called the comments “reprehensible” while Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger claimed in the Dáil on Wednesday that Mr Grealish knew the figures were incorrect, and she said he was indulging in “blatant racism”.

Apologise

She asked if the Ceann Comhairle would ask Mr Grealish to apologise for his comments.

Fine Gael Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development Ciarán Cannon, who is from the neighbouring Galway East constituency and was a close colleague of Mr Grealish when both were in the Progressive Democrats, said remittances in the past built local economies in towns and villages across Ireland.

“It gives me no satisfaction to criticise a TD who shares the same county as I do but in the course of my work on behalf of our diaspora and on behalf of international development I see this issue from an important perspective. [Nowadays] I see the fruits of remittances to communities in developing countries and how those badly needed funds make a massive difference. I therefore find Mr Grealish’s remarks to be deeply unsettling and at odds with our values and experience as a people,” he said.

Uruemu Adejinmi, a local election candidate for Fianna Fáil in Longford, holds dual Nigerian and Irish citizenship.

“I am a taxpayer and am entitled to spend my hard-earned cash in any way I see fit,” she said.

“I would like to know the reason Noel Grealish singled out Nigeria in particular. Who in Galway West will benefit from this line of questioning?

“He needs to state why he rejected the CSO figures. In my opinion he is letting the good people of Galway West down. I hope they are as disappointed in him as I am, and that will be reflected in the vote in the general election,” said Ms Adejinmi, who works in finance.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said there were very clear laws with regard to remittances and that he was “not aware that there are flows of funding from Ireland to any country that is a cause for any investigation”.

Astronomical sums

In his comments in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Grealish had claimed astronomical sums were being transferred back home by Nigerians living in Ireland in personal remittances, and asked if the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Finance had a method of tracking the source of this money to ensure it was not the proceeds of crime and fraud.

There were some politicians who defended Mr Grealish yesterday. Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy-Rea said he had a right to ask a question and said it was “unfair to call him a racist”.

Galway City councillor Terry O’Flaherty, who canvasses for Mr Grealish said she still supported him but said she would not comment on the controversy.

Mr Grealish himself could not be reached yesterday despite numerous attempts to contact him.