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Pressure on Taoiseach to remove support for Verona Murphy after migrant comments

Party members have condemned her comments but say it is too late in the game to remove party support.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Verona Murphy at Fine Gael selection convention.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Verona Murphy at Fine Gael selection convention.
Image: @charlieflanagan

FINE GAEL TDS are quietly seething over the recent comments made by Wexford by-election candidate Verona Murphy. 

Pressure has been mounting on the Taoiseach to remove Murphy as the Fine Gael candidate following controversial comments she made about refugees in the past number of days. 

Murphy was scheduled to appear on RTÉ’s Radio One’s Late Debate this evening. However, it is understood that she will now not partake in tonight’s programme.

The Wexford candidate first apologised after linking asylum seekers to ISIS and calling for them to be “deprogrammed” on RTÉ’s This Week Programme on Sunday. 

The Irish Times then reported on Monday that Murphy made further comments linking migrants to the terrorist group while canvassing in Wexford last Friday.

Further comments have now been reported in yesterday’s Wexford People, in which Murphy claimed that Isis had “manipulated children as young as three or four”. 

After coming in for the criticism, Murphy visited a migrant reception centre on Monday and released a statement afterwards saying it had a “profound impact” on her understanding of the issues facing asylum seekers.

“All they want is the chance to live safely and without fear. I understand that wish,” Murphy said after her visit to the centre at the Clonea Strand Hotel in Dungarvan.

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

The Taoiseach has decided to standby his party candidate, saying that what she said was wrong, and that she was right to apologise. 

While a number of TDs believe she should not represent the party in the by-election, others have been criticised by party members for voicing such concerns about Murphy’s candidacy. 

“Disgraceful” is how one TD described Murphy’s comments, adding that all party candidates in future should have to sign a code of conduct on equality to ensure that no such comments are ever uttered by an election candidate again.

While he said the comments on immigrants, particularly those relating to children being radicalised, are particularly out of line, the TD was equally concerned about comments made by Murphy about homeless people and personal choices, as well as her remarks about the new drink driving laws, which she said are decimating rural Ireland.

When asked if this would be an issue for the parliamentary party meeting this week, they said this is an issue now, and needs to be dealt with with Murphy’s de-selection. 

While some members agreed with the sentiment, they argued that the Taoiseach finds himself in a bind. They said that it is a “terrible look” for Fine Gael to be seen out canvassing with Murphy after her remarks, but, to deselect her or remove support would leave them with no Fine Gael candidate in the running in the Wexford constituency. 

The mood music in the party is that while her comments are seen as outrageous and damaging to Fine Gael, removing support for her as a party candidate is a non-runner and wouldn’t make sense because an alternative candidate cannot be nominated at this late stage in the election campaign process.

The Taoiseach maintains that Murphy has apologised for her comments, which he described yesterday as ”very, very wrong”.

He said Murphy’s remarks were “ill-advised” and “absolutely wrong and don’t reflect the position on my party”.

A number of opposition parties have called on the Taoiseach to cut ties with Murphy, with the Green Party also making the argument that political parties should adopt candidate protocols ahead of elections to ensure uninformed, inflammatory language has no place in future campaigns. 

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