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Criticism of TD Mattie McGrath as he calls for cap on refugee numbers

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Mattie McGrath

Mattie McGrath

Mattie McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has been criticised for saying on national radio that he would like a cap on refugees.

Claire Byrne extracted the admission from the Tipperary deputy, leader of the Rural Independent Group, on her Today programme on RTÉ Radio 1.

It followed a row in the Dáil on Wednesday between Carol Nolan TD, another RIG member, and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, who warned her of posing a risk to social cohesion by drawing comparisons with accommodation provision for Irish citizens.

Mr McGrath responded “yes, I do” when asked if he wanted a cap on refugees, adding: “Other countries are being prudent and looking after their people.”

He said it was “PC crap” that the issue of rival groups chasing scarce accommodation could not even be raised.

“I don’t want to see too many [refugees]. We can’t just have open borders,” he said.

But his remarks were criticised on the programme by Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe, who said: “Mattie is trying to pretend that the Government doesn’t care about the Irish people. There are women and children in refugee tents in Poland. We are not prepared to leave people there.”

Senator Garret Ahearn of Fine Gael denounced “the reckless comments by Mattie McGrath”, saying they were a disgrace.

“They do not reflect the vast majority of people,” said the fellow Tipperary representative. “These comments create fear and it seems to me that his objective is to divide public support for Ukrainian citizens fleeing their country,” he said.

He added: “If his concerns were genuinely about the accommodation provided for Ukrainian citizens, then I would ask that he'd listen back to the Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko when she spoke in the Seanad last week.

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“The Ukrainian delegation she led has been to nine EU members states and without hesitation she stated that Ireland was a leading example of providing shelter and support.

“Unfortunately the type of language used has harmful undertones and the remarks are not based on facts. They damage the welcoming reputation that Ireland holds internationally.”

Mr McGrath said the Government was trying to impress other countries by acting as if it had open borders, when the system could not cope.

“We are blundering down a cul de sac and we are going to be in huge trouble,” he said, pointing out that there are 1,500 arrivals monthly, equivalent to 50 a day.

Asked if a cap would mean abandoning others to their fate, Mr McGrath insisted: “We must cut our cloth according to our measure.” He said his worry would be if Irish people became angry. “We have to be fair here, and we are an Ireland of the welcomes,” he said.

“But there is no plan in any form to deal with 1,500 a month coming in.”


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