Criticism of 'Irish workers only' demand for motorway
Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30
A SENIOR councillor has come under fire after demanding 500 jobs on a massive motorway project should all go to Irish workers and not to "foreigners".
Galway's longest-serving County Councillor, Michael Fahy, insisted that he had "nothing against any other nationality".
But the controversial south Galway public representative warned that if the construction jobs on the €550m Gort-Tuam motorway were to go to non-Irish workers, the money would leave the country.
A spokesperson for the Immigrant Council of Ireland described Cllr Fahy's comments as "offensive and unacceptable" and called on him to withdraw them.
Work on the massive M17/M18 project is expected to get under way early next year and Cllr Fahy said he understood that interviews for the jobs would be held next month.
"I want the jobs to go to local Irish people and local Irish young men so that some might be able to come back from Australia, from Canada, England and other countries to get this project going.
"Never before in our history has there been lower morale in rural Ireland and in particular in south Galway. We see it through our hurling clubs."
Cllr Fahy has urged the Government to give the consortium which won the contract, Direct Route, a tax incentive to ensure that Irish people are given the construction jobs.
But he acknowledged that he himself had employed non-Irish nationals to do work for him at his farm in Ardrahan.
"I've nothing against foreigners. I got on the best with the Brazilians in Gort - they even at one stage did painting for me. I have nothing against any other nationality, but we are at the present time trying to recover from a major recession and if the jobs go to non-nationals the money will leave Ireland.
"The wealth will not come into the Irish economy if non-nationals are employed on this road, because the money will leave Ireland. By giving the jobs to Irish people it will give (a great boost to) hundreds of small farmers whose sons and daughters have been educated (and had to go) abroad."
And Cllr Fahy rejected any suggestion that Irish workers would be less inclined to take the construction jobs than workers of other nationalities.
"I think the attitude there has changed very much. Young men have told me they're prepared to work there and they're prepared to work in 12-hour shifts.
"And when young men are stating that, then every effort should be made to give them that employment", he said.
But a spokesperson for the Immigrant Council of Ireland said: "These remarks as reported are not only offensive, but are factually wrong and if acted upon would be a violation of Irish law.
"The fact is 17pc of people who call Ireland home were born in another country and many are making a very positive contribution to the economic recovery.
"In addition, over the past three years more than 60,000 immigrants have chosen to make the ultimate commitment to Ireland by becoming citizens.
"It is unacceptable that a public representative should choose to misrepresent these facts and encourage employers to break the law, We would ask the Councillor to withdraw his remarks", they added.