Cormac McQuinn: 'Murphy's candidacy for Fine Gael becoming a growing headache for Taoiseach'

VERONA Murphy’s candidacy for Fine Gael is a growing headache for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar amid her highly controversial remarks linking immigrants to the murderous Isil terror-cult.

Her comments come at a time that the debate on asylum seekers in Ireland has begun to resemble the kind of worrying populist politics seen in Donald Trump’s America and elsewhere in Europe.

Fine Gael moved last night to try and offset the furore over her initial remarks where she claimed that Isil is a “big part of the migrant population” and some immigrants “almost have to be re-programmed”.

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Ms Murphy visited an Emergency Reception centre in Co Waterford and said afterwards: “I realise now I had a poor understanding of asylum issues and I apologise whole-heartedly for my remarks.”

However, this already appears to have backfired with Labour leader Brendan Howlin accusing Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan – Fine Gael’s director of elections in the Wexford constituency – of using immigrants in a bid to “rehabilitate” Ms Murphy’s candidacy.

  • Read more: Murphy criticised after suggestion three-year-olds could have been manipulated by Isil

And any hope Fine Gael had that the visit to the refugee centre would draw a line under the issue has now been dashed after the emergence of perhaps even more controversial comments about immigrants, this time children.

The Wexford People newspaper reports that while she said there must be “empathy” for people fleeing war-torn countries: “We also have to take into account the possibility that [Isil] have already manipulated children as young as three or four.”

Ms Murphy has already come under renewed criticism for these comments that came as part of a wider interview.

Fine Gael also won’t be thrilled about comments she made in the same interview about Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and the enforcement of Ireland’s drink-driving laws.

She is said to be against housing developments that include apartment blocks and she his out at Mr Murphy claiming: “His attitude is let them have cake”.

That’s not particularly helpful for Fine Gael as the government continues to face heavy opposition criticism over the housing crisis.

And Ms Murphy said that drink-driving laws have decimated rural Ireland claiming that “there is not proportionate policing”.

The government of course famously introduced a crackdown on drink-driving, albeit spearheaded by Independent Alliance Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Ms Murphy – the President of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) – has a high profile in the media and has been prominent in the Brexit debate.

She must have seemed like the ideal candidate to Mr Varadkar and Fine Gael at the time of her selection.

But her remarks in recent days are becoming increasingly problematic for the Taoiseach.

  • Read more: FG candidate apologises for second time after visit to asylum centre

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