Calls for TD Grealish to apologise and clarify alleged remarks about 'Africans'
Independent TD Noel Grealish has faced calls to apologise for alleged remarks about "Africans".
A petition containing more than 800 signatures is urging Mr Grealish to retract and apologise for remarks made at a public meeting about asylum seekers in Oughterard in Co Galway.
According to the chair of the Galway Anti-Racism Network and People Before Profit Galway representative Joe Loughnane, who attended the meeting, the TD made derogatory comments.
"It was bizarre, it was surreal. Other people there twice my age were giving it support," he said.
"It painted a picture of direct provision being a system that is being taken advantage of by asylum seekers but this couldn't be further from the truth."
Speaking at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in in Co Cork, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was "disappointed".
"I have to say these are very, very difficult and challenging issues. We have international obligations and national obligations as far as persons from the international stage seeking asylum in this country is concerned," he said.
He added that some of the views allegedly expressed in the meeting "are not reflective of the views of the people of Galway, and certainly not reflective of Ireland of the welcomes".
Asked if he was looking at the Galway town as a location for a direct provision centre, he said a number of places were being looked at, adding: "I want to again underline that this is a most complex issue."
Government Chief Whip Seán Kyne, who attended the meeting, said Mr Grealish made a reference to "Africans" who would use the direct provsion centre.
Mr Kyne, a Fine Gael TD for Galway West, said: "There was a lot of tension at the meeting but I don't stand over that. We've a process in this country under EU and international law for people claiming asylum and we have a fair system.
"There is certainly concern in the community regarding the centre and the lack of answers... There is concern about the unknown and it is felt the town wasn't suitable. But I pointed out that we have legal and moral responsibilities as well."
Councillor Thomas Welby, who chaired the meeting, declined to comment on Mr Grealish. He said that around 800 people attended the meeting, which he called due to concerns that the former Connemara Gateway Hotel may be turned into a direct provision centre.
Mr Grealish did not respond to requests for comment by the Irish Independent.