Verona Murphy claims she was ‘silenced’ by Fine Gael

Simon Harris says decison to deselect Wexford candidate ‘looking better by the moment’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvasses  Verona Murphy (centre) in Wexford town during the by-election campaign in November. Photograph: Fiach Kelly

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvasses Verona Murphy (centre) in Wexford town during the by-election campaign in November. Photograph: Fiach Kelly

 

Fine Gael’s decision to deselect Verona Murphy as a general election candidate in Wexford “is looking better by the moment,” Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Ms Murphy, who was criticised during a November byelection campaign after she linked migrants to Islamic State (ISIS), on Thursday claimed she had been “silenced” by Fine Gael after the controversy arose.

She on Thready told Southeast Radio she was “very disturbed” when she was instructed not to take part in a television debate prior to the byelection.

Fine Gael stood by Ms Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, during the campaign when she apologised for and withdrew her comments. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar later visited the constituency to canvass with her.

Ms Murphy was dropped by the party from the Wexford ticket on Wednesday night on the recommendation of Mr Varadkar. He last weekend said that he took issue with a video Ms Murphy published before polling day, which blamed the media for the controversy about her comments on immigrants.

“I had a big problem with that because maybe it suggested to me that the apology and retraction wasn’t fully sincere,” Mr Varadkar said.

‘Turn the page’

In response to Fine Gael’s move, Ms Murphy told Southeast Radio that she was a very resilient person. “I will get up, I will turn the page.”

Asked if she would run as in independent candidate in future, she intended to to take some time to reflect and would make a decision next month.

“I’m going to think about it, I can’t discount what people have been saying, but I won’t let anyone down.”

Asked about Ms Murphy’s radio interview, Mr Harris said that “if Fine Gael sought to silence her, we well and truly failed”.

“I think that anybody who engages in stoking what I believe to be unfounded racist fears has no place in the Fine Gael party,” he said. “I thought the comments made this morning which I don’t wish to repeat or add fuel to, I thought they gave an insight into why it’s best that she was deselected.”

Ms Murphy said her apology had been sincere and that it was “absolutely untrue” to suggest that her comments were part of a strategy to pick up on anti-migrant sentiment.

‘Disowned’

She insisted she was not a “sour or bitter” over her experience in politics.

“They may have disowned me, but I’ve made wonderful friends (in Fine Gael). I can’t thank them enough,” she said. “Politics is a dirty game, we ran a clean campaign and worked very hard. Everyone seems to be in it for themselves.”

Ms Murphy also defended her comments on migrants which she said had been misquoted.

“They left out that part where I said ‘that there is a possibility’ that Isis is a big part of the migrant population...People that know me, know that I am not the person being reported in the media.”

Ms Murphy said she had attended numerous briefings in Europe such as with Interpol and had visited a migrant camp in Calais, France.

“I don’t think anyone in Dáil Éireann has as much experience on the issue as I have,” she said. “The issue I raised was a security one. We have to protect ourselves.... Do we have to wait for a London Bridge incident on Wexford Bridge?”