Saturday 21 September 2019

VIDEO: TD Noel Grealish claims some asylum seekers come to Ireland to 'sponge off the system'

Noel Grealish at the certification ceremony of successful students of Galway National Learning Network as calls for him to clarify alleged remarks about asylum seekers continue
Photo:Andrew Downes
Noel Grealish at the certification ceremony of successful students of Galway National Learning Network as calls for him to clarify alleged remarks about asylum seekers continue Photo:Andrew Downes
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish. Photo: Tom Burke

Gabija Gataveckaite

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Galway West TD Noel Grealish should "at the very least" make a statement to clarify remarks he made about asylum seekers earlier this week.

A video has emerged of the Galway TD saying that asylum seekers come to Ireland to "sponge off the system".

TD Noel Grealish can be heard saying that if asylum seekers came into the direct provision centre in Galway, they would not be "persecuted Christians" but "economic refugees" from Africa.

He was speaking at a public meeting in Oughterard, county Galway, on Wednesday night.

"These are economic migrants, these are people that are coming over here from Africa to sponge off the system here in Ireland," he allegedly said.

"I know people that I’ve worked with all over the country trying to get housing for seven, eight, nine years.

"The fear, and it is the fear factor, that this is going to bring on this village because we don’t know, we don’t know the people that us [sic] coming in, I can guarantee you, it’s not the persecuted Christians and Syrians coming here, it’s the people, it’s the economic refugees that is coming in here from Africa," he said.

The meeting was organised by local Councillor Thomas Welby after concerns were raised in the community that the Connemara Gateway Hotel was in the process of renovation and would be converted into a direct provision centre.

"A big city, a major city can afford 300 refugees but not a small town like Oughterard," Deputy Grealish appears to say in the video.

He urged the public to "work together, stick together".

"People want to ensure that this does not happen and to destroy Oughterard."

Loud clapping is heard after he concludes his speech.

Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning, Mr Varadkar said: "If that is what he said, I think he should withdraw those remarks. At the very least make a statement on them and clarify them."

Speaking to Independent.ie yesterday, Councillor Welby declined to clarify Mr Grealish’s comments.

Deputy Grealish was urged to retract his remarks by Chair of the Galway Anti-Racism Network and People Before Profit Galway representative Joe Loughnane yesterday.

"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," he said.

A petition urging the TD to retract his comments and apologise was launched on Wednesday night has currently over 1,500 signatures.

Deputy Grealish did not respond to numerous attempts for comment.

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