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Bríd Smith warned by Ceann Comhairle for claiming 'Nazi supporters lies' have been repeated in Dáil

Minister Heather Humphreys said there is an onus on politicians to show leadership.

NO MEMBER OF the Dáil should be equated with Nazism, according the Ceann Comhairle Seán O Fhearghail who intervened in a discussion on migration on the first day of the new Dáil term. 

During Leaders’ Questions, People Before Profit Bríd Smith raised the case of asylum seekers being housed in Racket Hall Hotel in Roscrea

A demonstration numbering up to 300 took place, with protestors staying at the scene overnight. Crowds gathered to hear speeches by local activists, while far-right agitators arrived to speak to locals at the hotel’s entrance, repeating many anti-immigration tropes around population replacement and so-called ‘plantations’. 

Scuffles broke out between some protestors and gardaí as asylum seekers were arriving at the hotel. 

In her contribution in the Dáil today, Smith rounded on the government’s handling of the migration issues, stating that it is not the fault of asylum seekers.

“I am pointing my finger at you because I really mean this. I am so angry, as is everybody, at the scenes of women and their children being frightened and bullied and harangued and harrassed, and the scenes of violence that ensued from that and them having to witness that,” she said, referencing the case of Roscrea. 

“It is not that they are a problem, it is that you are the problem,” she told Minister Heather Humphreys who was taking Leaders’ Questions today. 

Smith said the lack of delivery on public services such as housing and health and led to “anger of ordinary people” being whipped up by “the lies and viciousness of the far-right, the Nazi supporters who want to blame the refugees and people of colour, they have directed that against asylum seekers instead of directing it at you and your policies”. 

“The reason why I am doing this in such a vociferous way is because we have echoes of those Nazi supporters lies in this chamber and those echoes, which come from rural independents and others in this House, which blame refugees for the problems that we have, actually do make a difference to how people think,” she told the Dáil. 

The Ceann Comhairle said that while he is favour of robust debate in the chamber, he took issue with Smith’s comments. 

“It is not fair by any stretch of the imagination to equate any member of this House in any way to Nazism, not in any way, not by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. 

“You diminish the appalling nature of what Nazism is,” he added, however Smith said she stood over her right to make such remarks. 

Humphrey’s responded telling Smith that conflating housing and immigration was going down a “dangerous road”, while added that there is an “onus on every one of us in this House to show leadership”.  

“I accept that we do need to communicate better,” acknowledged the minister. She said there was a lot of misinformation and outright lies on social media about immigrants.

The minister said she wanted to highlight that PRSI contributions from foreign nationals amounts to €3 billion per annum. In the past ten years it has amounted to €17 billion, the minister said, stating that those funds are paying for pensions and unemployment benefits.  

She followed this statement by remarking that she wondered “how some people can be at protests in the middle of the day when everyone else is working”.  

Speaking about Roscrea, Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry said he wanted to put it on the Dáil record “that I am not a racist and am not anti-immigrant”. 

He said he has no such language in the Dáil or outside of it. 

The TD said he had raised Roscrea four times in the last year, stating that the government did not listen and ignored the legitimate concerns of the local people. 

Lowry said that the town acceptioned, without protest, a direct provision centre and a centre to house Ukrainians, which now accounts for about 20% of the population of Roscrea. 

‘This government has failed Roscrea on immigration and left it at its time of greatest need,” he said, adding that the scenes of the last week were avoidable had the government taken action when needed.

Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said he refuted “out of hand” the accusations made by Smith in the Dáil. He said a “mess” has been made in the handling of the situation in Roscrea, adding that the government’s migration policy is “dysfunctional”.