The Minister for Finance has said the amount of money being sent to Nigeria from Ireland may be far lower than Independent TD Noel Grealish claimed in the Dáil.
The Galway West TD yesterday said €3.54bn in personal transfers had been sent to Nigeria over the past eight years.
He questioned whether the money had been “fully accounted for within the Irish Revenue or tax system and is not the proceeds of crime or fraud.”
A number of TDs responded angrily to the comments, labelling Deputy Grealish a “disgrace” and a “racist.”
Meanwhile, the Immigrant Council of Ireland said it is “shameful” to see an elected representative target one group of immigrants for something that is an essential part of the migration process.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe urged him to clarify why he targeted Nigerians over other immigrants while making his point.
“He has made a number of comments now over recent weeks,” he said.
“It is up to him to clarify why he is doing so and his intention in relation to it.
“I believe that the issue of remittances for example is something that was hugely important to Irish people at other points in our history and of course we have a very strong enforcement and legal framework in place here in Ireland in case there is anything suspicious about remittances flows to other countries.”
Deputy Grealish cited figures from the World Bank when asking his question in the Dáil yesterday; however, Minister Donohoe said CSO figures paint a very different picture.
The €3.54bn Deputy Grealish said was sent over eight years works out at €442m per year.
Minister Donohoe said the CSO figures indicate that the “money involved in this is between €17m to €20m per year.”
“I have figures in front of me from the CSO that go up to 2017 and those figures indicate that there are remittances going from Ireland to Nigeria – as there are to many other countries all over the world,” he said.
“The figures from the CSO are significantly lower than the figures Deputy Grealish used yesterday.”
He said the World Bank figures are “from a number of years ago” and insisted there are “always different ways of measuring these things because it is so difficult to calculate what is the level of people’s post-tax income that they decide to send elsewhere and what they decide to do with it.”
Deputy Grealish was handed those same figures in response to a Dáil question as recently as three weeks ago.
They indicate that the level of remittance sent to Nigeria has sat at €17m per year since 2010.
There are two other non-EU countries that have received higher levels of remittance in that time period – India and the Philippines.
Deputy Grealish made no reference to either country in his comments yesterday.
Teresa Buckzkowska, spokesperson for the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said Deputy Grealish's comments have been disappointing.
“He has already made a couple of very negative statements before about migration,” she said.
“It seems that he has already made up his mind about the way he wants to approach this issue."
She said it was unfair for Deputy Grealish to single out Nigerians while making his point.
“He is scrutinising and criminalising one group of immigrants for what is an essential part of the migration process and something that every migrant is doing including Irish people living abroad.
“For an elected representative to be using this context to scrutinise one group of people living in Ireland is very, very shameful.”
Meanwhile, Navan Councillor Yemi Adenuga, who moved to Ireland from Nigeria, said the way the issue was raised could incite anger against one group of people.
“It is how he asked the question,” she said. “It is inciting people.”
“Already that conversation is going on amongst people – that Nigerians are a certain way.
“There is the good, the bad and the ugly everywhere but it is so unfair to put the same blanket over everybody.”
Minister Donohoe said all companies involved in sending remittances from Ireland to other parts of the world are subject to regulation by the Central Bank and are “required by law to indicate if anything suspicious is going on.”