Need for ‘mature debate’ on immigration levels amid public anger, Fine Gael meeting hears

TD Paul Kehoe says migration is a big issue and that there was a need for a wider discussion on the matter

There is a need for “mature debate” on levels of immigration amid rising public anger over the issue, the Fine Gael parliamentary party has heard.

The meeting heard from Wexford TD and former government chief whip and minister of state for defence Paul Kehoe who said that migration was a big issue and that there was a need for a wider discussion on the matter.

Sources present said he told the meeting that there is a public meeting in Rosslare on the latest arrivals planned in his constituency this weekend and that “anger is huge” on the topic.

He is said to have told the meeting that there was a need for “a serious, mature debate on this issue about the whole issue of migration” whether accommodation can be found for the number of people arriving.


He said he was hearing about the issue on a weekly basis, including from people who would have a history of being supportive of the Ukrainian accommodation effort, who had a range of concerns, including the amount of people being put into rural areas.

He was backed in his calls for a discussion by Galway-based Senator Seán Kyne, who also argued there was no easy solution to the matter, and agreed with the Taoiseach’s comments that the UK has been very anti-immigrant for years but numbers are still coming and problems persist.

Mr Kyne said full employment here is a “draw” on numbers coming, and that there are questions being asked about where it will all end. He was also backed by Senator Micheál Carrigy, sources said.

Cork based Senator Tim Lombard called for Minister for Education Norma Foley to brief the Fine Gael parliamentary party on her plans to reform school transport. He said she had been working on a review of the scheme since February 2021 and that the next General Election may fall during a “school transport cycle” and that there are children who have been left waiting at crossroads for buses that do not turn up.

Mr Lombard also said that there would be tens of thousands of cattle culled due to the ending of the nitrates derogation, telling the meeting it was a “sin”. He said Ireland should be given more time to deal with the ending of the derogation and said the upcoming visit of the EU Commissioner for the environment Virginijus Sinkevičius was an opportunity to seek that.

Also at the meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there are up to 40 Irish-Palestinian citizens in Gaza and an 8-year-old Irish-Israeli girl believed to be held hostage by Hamas.

He reiterated calls that there should be a humanitarian ceasefire and all hostages released immediately, adding that the coalition’s priority was getting all Irish citizens and their dependents out of Gaza. Ahead of travelling to a humanitarian conference in Paris on Thursday to discuss the violent conflict, Mr Varadkar warned of “growing signs” of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia spreading across Europe.

He said lower corporate tax receipts recorded in three successive months would not impact budget decisions in any way.

Garret Ahearne, the Fine Gael Senator from Tipperary, called for a wider debate on communication from the Department of Integration to Local Authorities after plans to close an accommodation for homeless people in Cashel and convert it into a centre for international protection applicants were paused this week.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times