Saturday 14 December 2019

Verona Murphy pulls out of RTE appearance as her comments on asylum seekers deemed ‘out of order’ by FG minister

Minister of State for Housing, Damien English. Picture: Collins
Minister of State for Housing, Damien English. Picture: Collins

Gabija Gataveckaite and Laura Lynott

THE comments of Wexford by-election candidate Verona Murphy on asylum seekers were “out of order”, according to Fine Gael minister Damien English.

Ms Murphy has been caught up in controversy after suggesting earlier this week that some immigrants “almost have to be re-programmed” so that they’re integrated into Irish society.

Fine Gael backed the candidate after she "wholeheartedly" apologised for saying that terror group Islamic State (Isil) was "a big part of the migrant population" in Ireland.

Speaking this afternoon, the Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Mr English told Independent.ie that it was important that the candidate apologised for her comments.

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“Her comments were wrong, out of order and she knows that now,” he said.

READ MORE: Varadkar backs candidate under fire for controversial remarks about refugees

Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Fine Gael’s Verona Murphy. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Ms Murphy was due to appear on the Late Debate on RTE Radio One tonight as far back as last Thursday, according to RTE.

Presenter Katie Hannon told listeners: “As of this morning she was still coming on this programme.

“Her press handler was in contact with our production team, which is always in place. But at two minutes to 7 o’clock this evening, we received a call to say that Verona Murphy would in fact not be appearing.

“Following that we got a short statement from Verona.”

The statement read: “Given the controversy of recent days and my subsequent apology, I have decided not to take part in tonight’s Late Debate.

“My focus for the coming days will be listening to and engaging with the issues that concern all living in Wexford.”

Ms Hannon said there had been a meeting in Fine Gael HQ tonight attended by Ms Murphy but it was unknown what was discussed, though the party said she was still standing as their candidate.

Fellow Wexford by-election Fianna Fail candidate Malcolm Byrne told RTE immigration was not an issue that was arising on the doors during canvassing.

But housing, health, climate change and roads were major issues for voters, he added.

“The only time it’s ever come up is in relation to housing where people talk about where will we house asylum seekers when we can’t house our own citizens….” Mr Byrne said.

The candidate said he’d been “dreading” the discussion sparked by Ms Murphy’s comments. “I don’t like giving oxygen” to such comments he added.

Jim Codd for Aontú said Ms Murphy’s comments were a “clever attempt to test the water.”

“Peter Casey had success early on but the water is too warm, Verona withdrew from it,” he added.

Ms Murphy visited an emergency reception centre in Co Waterford last night in a bid to quell the controversy.

“In the last day or two, she has experienced what it is all about and has had a chance to meet people who are coming through the asylum seeker process and learned a lot from that as well,” the minister added.

“That’s the important part of that for me.”

He said that Ms Murphy’s comments were not in line with the party’s philosophy.

“I don’t agree with what she said, it is not Fine Gael philosophy.

“She has taken back those comments and apologised and I think that it is important that she did that and did that immediately, because I would not have been happy with those comments at all,” he added.

READ MORE: Cormac McQuinn: 'Murphy's candidacy for Fine Gael becoming a growing headache for Taoiseach'

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