Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.15 19 Nov 2019


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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stood by his under fire by-election candidate, amid calls for her to be removed from the ticket.

Wexford by-election candidate Verona Murphy has apologised for comments about asylum seekers after saying ISIS has already manipulated children as young as four.

She has apologised for comments she made about asylum seekers needing to be de-programmed.

That is not an apology TD Brid Smith accepted when questioning Mr Varadkar in the Dáil.

She said: "When will you de-programme this candidate and de-select her?

"Because if you don't, the use of the race card and the increased use of it is on your shoulders".

Mr Varadkar condemned the comments, but stood by Ms Murphy saying: "It's certainly not something that is tolerated in the party that I lead".

Earlier Mr Varadkar said he will be campaigning with her: "Verona's a very out-spoken , very independent person - she's not going to be the kind of person who tows the party line.

"I think on some occasions she's got it absolutely wrong.

"But she is the selected candidate and I will certainly be campaigning with her before polling day and I have done since."

"I spoke to her about them yesterday: they were misinformed, they were ill-advised, they were wrong and she was right to apologise for them".

Local opposition TDs in Wexford, James Brown and Brendan Howlin, were less forgiving.

Mr Brown said: "I would absolutely condemn her comments - they're totally unacceptable, they're totally outrageous".

And Mr Howlin added: "It's profoundly ignorant, and it's profoundly wrong".

While Social Democrat Roisin Shortall said the Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has questions to answer for bringing Ms Murphy to a refugee reception centre in Waterford.

She said: "You'd wonder how that was ordered so quickly - I think it was a very cynical move, and I think the minister has probably over-stepped the mark".

Ms Murphy has also been criticised for saying bad personal choices have led to people becoming homeless.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has described the situation around Ms Murphy's remarks on asylum seekers as "outrageous".

Following her initial apology on Sunday night, Fine Gael said Ms Murphy visited a centre in Waterford to "gain a better understanding of asylum and refugee issues".

The businesswoman said she now realised that she "had a poor understanding of asylum issues and I apologise wholeheartedly for my remarks".

She stated: “I was very moved by my visit. I met men, women and children from war torn regions who came here to escape brutal violence so that they could live normal family lives.

"Their stories were harrowing and have had a profound impact on my understanding of the issue."

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, meanwhile, said the candidate's initial comments were "based on false rumours and misinformation" and that she's now apologised.

He added: "I believe that public representatives and those running for election must step up and confront fabrications.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast earlier, Teresa Buxzkowska - the Immigrant Council's Integration Coordinator - accused Ms Murphy of using "stigmatising and dehumanising language" in her initial comments.

She argued: "The apology and the whole situation is very, very outrageous.

"She was given access to a group of people that she stigmatised in the first place [by] making ungrounded statements without any factual evidence.

"They are not exhibitions or tools for education... they are people."

Ms Buxzkowska suggested that Ms Murphy's original words will "always be in the public domain", and there's a need for everyone to be careful about the words they use.

Additional reporting: Sean Defoe and Jack Quann

Main image: Verona Murphy

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