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Verona Murphy has been 'through a tough time' but it's the right decision to take her off the FG ticket, says Coveney

Coveney said the by-election campaign was ‘personally stressful’ on Murphy.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said “it is the right decision” that Verona Murphy is not running for Fine Gael in the next general election. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Coveney said Murphy has been through a “very tough time” in recent weeks. 

Murphy ran a controversial by-election campaign which saw her come in for sustained criticism for a series of comments about migrants.

In one more recent interview, Murphy made further comments about immigration that have led to more criticism

Speaking to South East Radio last week, Murphy said she has been called a racist for “raising security issues”, adding: “Do we have to wait for a London Bridge incident on Wexford Bridge?” 

She was dropped from the Fine Gael ticket for the upcoming general election last week

Speaking on Friday, Varadkar said he’s happy Murphy didn’t get elected and said she “wouldn’t have lasted long in Fine Gael” because the views she holds aren’t acceptable in the party he leads. He added that he accepts responsibility for her being selected in the recent by-election.

“There’s a reason why Verona isn’t running for the party in the general election. I think that’s the right decision, even though I think Verona has been through a very tough time,” Coveney said today.

‘Stressful time’

The Tánaiste was the only person from the Fine Gael party who contacted Murphy after she lost out in the Wexford by-election, he said. 

“I spoke to her after the election, a couple of days after the count. I rang her, mainly to see if she was okay. I mean, she had been through a very tough campaign. It was very personally stressful for her, she got an awful lot of coverage and [was] in the spotlight in terms of, national media criticism and so on, that I think she just couldn’t have anticipated.

“And you know, that takes its toll on some people. So I rang her just to make sure she was okay. And she appreciated that,” he said. 

Coveney also commented on today’s controversy involving Sky Sports host David Jones and Gary Neville.

On Sunday, Neville took aim at political leaders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn for not doing enough to stamp out racism in the UK.

“I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago that we have just had a General Election in this country where the leaders of both main parties are accused constantly over the past month of fuelling racism and accepting racism in their parties,” Neville said.

“If it is accepted in the highest office in the country then we aren’t talking at a micro level, we are talking at an enormous level.”

When asked if the same could be said about political parties in Ireland, Coveney said:

“I think quite the opposite in Ireland. I think that when people have said inappropriate things, in relation to asylum seekers, refugees or migrants in Ireland, I think that all the parties have been pretty strong in their condemnation.

“I mean, certainly, Fine Gael have. I think we were very strong during the presidential campaign when Peter Casey said things that we felt were inappropriate. The difference of view and policy in this issue with Verona means that she’s not running for the party. So, you know, Fine Gael want to give leadership in this area,” he said. 

Coveney said it is easy to be populist in relation to feeding into people’s fears in relation to migration, adding that people only have those fears due to not understanding or knowing the people involved. 

“I think there’s a real obligation on political leaders in particular the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the country, to speak out very strongly on Ireland’s obligations, to be generous, to be consistent with international law, but also to reflect on Ireland’s own history, about migration, when we’re actually judging others,” said Coveney. 

When asked if he believes racial and discriminatory rhetoric will become commonplace in the next general election, Coveney said: 

I hope it won’t. And I hope political parties will be very clear with their own candidates, that it’s not acceptable. And I think we have tried to be in Fine Gael.
He said that in other EU countries issues around migration and the fears around radicalisation had become “central points of discussion in election campaigns and people voting on the back of that”.
He added: “I’ve never seen a good outcome from those debates.”

Ireland has done a good job in preventing that sort of narrative “infecting political debates”, he said.

“Instead, we’re trying to focus on the practicalities because there are practical pressures in terms of accommodating significant numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. But I believe we have an obligation to do that. And that’s why I would have been to the fore along with Charlie Flanagan, and others, in terms of making offers to the EU around resettlement programmes and so on. I totally stand over that.

“Ireland, as I say, because of our own history, and our own experience and our own tragedies, in terms of migration, out of necessity – we have an obligation above many other countries to be generous here, but also to be practical and to make sure that we do this in a managed and structured way so we can treat people with dignity,” he said. 

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