Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar backs candidate under fire for controversial remarks about refugees

Fine Gael by-election candidate Verona Murphy has apologised for controversial comments she made about asylum seekers.

Leo Varadkar said he has full confidence in Verona Murphy (PA)
Leo Varadkar said he has full confidence in Verona Murphy (PA)

By Aine McMahon and Michael McHugh, PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he has full confidence in a by-election candidate that made controversial remarks about asylum seekers.

Fine Gael by-election candidate Verona Murphy made comments to the Irish Times last Friday that so-called Islamic State is “a big part of the migrant population” in Ireland and services are needed to “alleviate that type of indoctrination”.

Ms Murphy also told RTE’s This Week programme that some asylum seekers coming to Ireland have to be “deprogrammed” as they “carry angst” and may have been “infiltrated by Isis”.

In a statement on Monday night, Ms Murphy apologised for her remarks and said she visited a reception centre for asylum seekers in Waterford “to gain a better understanding of asylum and refugee issues”.

Her comments were wrong, ill-advised and misinformed Leo Varadkar

On Tuesday morning, Ms Murphy’s local paper, The Wexford People, carried an article where she made further controversial remarks, saying addiction and bad personal choices lead people to homelessness.

Speaking at the signing of the National Broadband Plan in Co Wicklow today, Mr Varadkar expressed full confidence in Ms Murphy as Fine Gael’s by-election candidate.

“Her comments were wrong, ill-advised and misinformed,” he said.

“She is our candidate and I will be canvassing with her ahead of the by-election next Friday.”

Mr Varadkar said Ms Murphy has “strong views”.

“Verona is a very outspoken, independent person. She is not going to be the type of person to toe the party line. I think on some occasions she has got it absolutely wrong but she is the prospective candidate,” he said.

“I will certainly be campaigning with her ahead of polling day and I have done since.

“In relation to her comments she made last week; I spoke to her about them the other day. They were misinformed , ill-advised and wrong and she was right to apologise for them.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland who are migrants contribute to our economy, our health service – a very small number come from Iraq and Syria, and those who do are much more likely to be fleeing Isis than having anything to do with Isis and she understands that now. I think it is right and important that she withdrew those remarks and apologised for them.”

Justice minister Charlie Flanagan said on Monday night that Ms Murphy gained “enormous insights” from her visit and that her previous statements were based on “false rumours and misinformation”.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail that racism was not tolerated in his party.

“What she said was very wrong, they were ill-advised (comments), they were misinformed, they were absolutely wrong and it does not reflect the position of my party.

“It is right that she has retracted these comments and apologised for it.”

He said a very small number of minorities came from Iraq or Syria.

“They are more likely to be fleeing Isis than having anything to do with them.”

PA

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