Tuesday 20 March 2018

'We will take any necessary action' - Taoiseach distances himself from FG councillor's comments on Islam and refugees

Leo Varadkar has distanced himself from Cllr Murphy's comments
Leo Varadkar has distanced himself from Cllr Murphy's comments

Cormac McQuinn and Kathy Armstrong

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has moved to distance himself and Fine Gael from controversial views on Islam and refugees posted by one of the party's councillors.

The party have already criticised social media posts by Cllr Brian Murphy - including a claim that Sharia law in operating in Ireland as  "unacceptable".

Mr Varadkar didn't say if Mr Murphy would be expelled from the party, but indicated that Fine Gael's national executive will take action.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Brian Murphy has posted a number of comments on Twitter in the last week that have come under scrutiny.

Councillor Brian Murphy
Councillor Brian Murphy

"The Irish military should not be being forced to act as a ferry service for smugglers and illegal economic migrants in the Mediterranean," he wrote on September 1.

Another post as part of a series of tweets on September 5 read: "Sharia Law is operating in Ireland and most of the political class either do not know or do not care. It is a subversion of our legal system".

This afternoon Mr Varadkar said: "I want to disassociate myself and the party from those messages from Cllr Brian Murphy. They do not represent the policies views or values of the Fine Gael party.

"The party at executive council level will take any necessary action that needs to be taken by them and he’ll be informed of that in due course," Mr Varadkar added.

It comes after a Fine Gael spokesperson said Mr Murphy's comments "will be dealt with by the Fine Gael party".

Shane O'Curry, director of the Irish branch of the European Network Against Racism, said that Cllr Murphy should be expelled from the party.

He said: "His comments are grotesque and hateful distortions of the truth," he said.

"He is using language and concepts which closely reflect paranoia you find on far right websites, so you also have to ask what is he reading?

"There should be no place in Irish politics for the kind of hate that he is promoting. He should be expelled from the party immediately and without hesitation.

"The reason for that is that his comments have no basis in truth if he wants to exercise his freedom of speech he can do it on the margins and not within a major ruling party.

"His views are not just lies and distortion, they have very real and negative impacts on families and communities of people who are building their lives here in Ireland.

"These [type of] things lead to violence, intimidation and fear being meted out on communities."

He added that Mr Murphy's comments could have a negative impact on the lives of Muslim people who are living here.

He told Independent.ie: "Through iReport we have picked up on increased harassment of Muslim communities in particular.

"There's definitely a Trump effect and a Brexit effect as well as the impact of the mainstreaming of European far right thought."

Dublin-based Shaykh Dr. Umar Al-Qadri dismissed Cllr Murphy's claims that Sharia law is operating in parts of Ireland.

He said: "I would like to say that I am very vocal against radicalisation and extremism in society so if there was any such Sharia law, I would be the first to speak out against it and raise the alarm.

"I really find it very appalling that he could speak like that."

While he said he was "shocked" that a representative of Fine Gael would make these comments he said he doesn't think the comments reflect Irish attitudes.

He said: "I was shocked that this is a Fine Gael councillor, it just didn't seem right.

"I believe it's a false tweet that could fuel Islamophobia and create divisions, it's scare-mongering and I don't think this kind of politics is the Irish way.

"I believe his comments do not represent the majority of Irish people.

"Ireland is not known for politics for such xenophobia and I believe strongly there is no appetite in Ireland for this kind of politics, I think that's why there's been such a backlash against his comments on Twitter."

He said he feels that Fine Gael must inform Cllr Murphy his comments aren't acceptable.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Dr Al-Qadri said: "I think not only should Fine Gael should not only distance themselves from his statements but they should take a strong action against him.

"I call upon Fine Gael leadership to send a warning to this individual that if he continues to spread division like that he should either not be part of Fine Gael or else maybe they need to accept that is the direction that the party is going.

"They need to be very clear about this."

Mr Murphy was defiant last night, telling Independent.ie that "everything I have said is true" when contacted by independent.ie.

He added: "Fine Gael is the political party I love and it is the greatest political party, but we are a broad church, and I do not want this country creating parallel societies within our society as has happened in Europe."

"Islam does not integrate or assimilate and that should not be a controversial statement, the evidence is there in the no-go zones around Europe and the billions and billions that now have to be spent monitoring an ever increasing number of Jihadis in every European country".

Fine Gael's spokesperson also said:

"Fine Gael is a party of the progressive centre and is a committed European party.

"Earlier this year, Fine Gael Intercultural (FGI) was set up. Fine Gael want to create a fair and caring society where everybody is engaged in democracy, and where there are no barriers to equal opportunity.

"The party is committed to playing its role in assisting refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. All people, regardless of class, dogma, ideology, race, religion or creed, should be treated equally and fairly."

Independent.ie has made several attempts to contact Mr Murphy today for further comment but has not received a response.

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