Immigration not doorstep issue for byelection candidates – FF

Health, housing main issues raised; Martin says FG ‘talking out of both sides of their mouth’

Micheál Martin says some politicians were ‘playing the race card’ because they think it will work in their favour. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

Micheál Martin says some politicians were ‘playing the race card’ because they think it will work in their favour. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

 

Immigration is not a main issue being raised on the doorsteps to those canvassing for next week’s byelections, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

Health and housing are the main issues being brought up in the four areas that will be contested, but in some parts of Dublin, concerns had been expressed about lack of Garda resources and the growing incidents of open drug use on the streets and on public transport, Mr Martin said.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that he thought some politicians were “playing the race card” because they think it will work in their favour and they were doing it by using comments such as “we have to house our own.”

“That’s dangerous talk,” he said.

Fine Gael “are talking out of both sides of their mouth”, but they are “not in the same league as Noel Grealish” the Independent TD who Mr Martin said had come into the Dáil in a premeditated fashion with “loaded points that were not factually correct” about remittances by Nigerians living in Ireland.

Mr Martin described comments by Fine Gael’s candidate in Wexford, Verona Murphy, as “astonishing and extraordinary”. Ms Murphy has been embroiled in controversy and apologised for comments she made about migrants including remarks that children as young as three could have been “manipulated” by Islamic State.

She also apologised for saying that Islamic State (also known as Isis) was a “big part” of the migrant population in Ireland and that some asylum seekers may need to be “re-programmed”.

When asked if he thought the people Ms Murphy visited in direct provision were “being used”, he said yes and he wanted full details and clarity about how the visit was organised at such short notice.

Her comments had been tantamount to “incitement”, he added.

Mr Martin denied that he was “holding fire” in his comments because of the controversy about tweets posted by Fianna Fáil’s byelection candidate Lorraine Clifford-Lee. Ms Lee has apologised for tweets from 2011, the language of which was very pejorative of Travellers. Her tweets had been wrong, but they had been made years ago before she became involved in electoral politics, he said.