Footage has emerged of Galway TD Noel Grealish calling asylum seekers “economic migrants” who have come to Ireland to “sponge off the system.”
Taoiseach Leo Vardkar has called on the independent TD to withdraw the remarks.
Deputy Grealish made the comments at a public meeting about a potential new Direct Provision centre at the Gateway Hotel in Oughterard, county Galway.
“You watch the news and you listen and hear our Taoiseach three weeks ago saying he will take an extra 200 migrants from Africa,” he said.
“These are economic migrants. These are people coming over here from Africa to sponge off the system here in Ireland.”
In late August Ireland was one of six countries to agree to take in men, women and children from a rescue ship that had been stranded at sea for two weeks.
The ship was carrying 356 people with France agreeing to take in 150. The rest were to be split up between Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Romania and Luxembourg.
Noel Grealish video here https://t.co/ewqoYte4cv
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) September 13, 2019
Deputy Grealish urged the people attending the meeting to “work together” to prevent the opening of the Direct Provision centre in Oughterard.
“I can guarantee you it is not the simple persecuted Christians and Syrians coming here,” he said.
“It is the economic refugees that are coming in from Africa; that are trying to get across the Mediterranean and ended up in Europe and ended up in Ireland and ended up in Oughterard where you don’t have the schools and you don’t have the doctors for the families.”
A petition calling on Deputy Grealish to apologise for the "racist comments" has now been signed by more than 1,600 people.
The independent TD supports the Government in most votes and on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Taoiseach called on him to clarify the remarks.
“I think it would be helpful if he clarified exactly what he did say and what he meant,” he said.
“We don’t have a formal agreement with him. He does vote with us most of the time but not all the time.
“Certainly in relation to people coming from Syria and so on, these are refugees; these are people who are fleeing a war-torn country.
“They are not people who necessarily want to be in Ireland or want to be in Galway. They have nowhere else to go.”
At a press conference this afternoon, he called on him to withdraw the comments.
"If what is said is true, I think he needs to withdraw those remarks and certainly issue a statement clarifying what he said," he said.
The Oughterard meeting was also attended by Minister of State Sean Kyne and Independent TD Catherine Connolly.