A senior Sinn Féin TD has accused his former colleague Peadar Tóibín of knowing "exactly what he was doing" in making comments about immigration to Ireland that have drawn serious criticism.
Mr Tóibín made his remarks at the national launch of his new party, Aontú, in Dublin on Saturday.
The Meath West TD said "There is no doubt there is a growing unease and concern among many people in Ireland around the issue of immigration.
“Our view is very simple, there needs to be sustainable levels of immigration in this country, it needs to be managed.”
“There needs to be some link between the capacity of the country and the numbers of people coming in,” he said, “if there’s not there’s going to be hardship for indigenous and newcomers alike.”
Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Féin Donegal TD and his party's deputy leader in the Dáil, said Mr Tóibín is "no fool" and "knew exactly what he was doing".
“He never expressed any of those sentiments when he was a member of Sinn Féin,” Mr Doherty said.
"He is seeing the rise of this across Europe and some of it was being expressed in our presidential election. He is no fool. He knew exactly what he was doing.
“I genuinely believe that he doesn’t hold those views yet he has decided to court that area for electoral support. That goes against what Peadar is.”
Speaking to The Irish Times on Monday night, Mr Tóibín said there needs to be a “respectful and responsible” debate about immigration.
‘Lack of resources’
“There are concerns among some people there in working-class areas that they are competing for scarce resources,” he said. “In my view, it is important there is a debate, a respectful and responsible debate, because if we don’t do it, it will be taken over by people who are far less responsible and far less respectful.
"The reason for the lack of resources is not the immigrants. It is that Fine Gael has withdrawn its investment from health and education and housing from what it needs to be. The blame for the scarcity of resource is not the migrants, it is the Government."
He further claimed other political parties have been “taken aback” by the growth of his party and are being “disingenuous” in their criticisms of him.