Update 11.23am: Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae has defended his independent colleague Noel Grealish for comments he made in the Dáil on Tuesday about the amount of funds sent in remittances to Nigeria from Ireland.
“It was unfair to call him racist. I think he was entitled to ask the questions,” Mr Healy-Rae told RTÉ Today with Miriam O’Callaghan show. “I don’t know where he was going (with the question).”
Killarney was a multi ethnic area, he said, with people from a wide range of ethnic groups, who brought valuable trades and skills to the area. “As a TD I work for all those ethnic groups.”
Mr Healy-Rae added that when the Taoiseach made comments about Georgian people “no body raised that”, it was unfair that Noel Grealish was being criticised. “It is wrong. I will stand up for him.
“It is wrong to call him names and to say he shouldn’t ask questions. It is up to Noel Grealish to deal with this in whatever way he sees fit.”
‘For many decades, and many centuries, Irish people went all over the world and sent back their remittances to Ireland’ - Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar responds to a question from independent TD Noel Grealish on remittances sent from Ireland | https://t.co/JEA9BtWRmb pic.twitter.com/TK6B4wVoVS— RTÉ News (@rtenews) November 12, 2019
Edel McGinley of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said that Mr Grealish did not need to ask the question because he had already been answered through a parliamentary question.
“It is an attempt to smear one group and for what purpose I don’t know. Why did he bring up the question when he had the answers.”
When asked if she thought this was an attempt to garner support in advance of a general election, Ms McGinley said that she thinks “voters are smarter than politicians and will see this was an attempt to pit one group against another.”
Fine Gael councillor for Navan, Yemi Adenuga, who is originally from Nigeria and has been living in Ireland for over 20 years said that she would like to see the relationship between Fine Gael and Noel Grealish severed.
“If he is genuinely concerned he should ask a straightforward question, he doesn’t have to make inflammatory remarks about Nigerians.
“Why is he ok about money being sent to other EU countries?”
Later on the same programme, the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said while Mr Grealish had a right to ask the question “I didn’t like what he was inferring.
“I want to know why he did that. It was disgusting and potentially dangerous. We need to be very careful about the questions asked and why they are being asked.”
Update 9.16am: Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has asked why Independent TD Noel Grealish was singling out one country in his comments about the level of remittances to Nigeria.
Mr Donohoe said he “recoiled” from Mr Grealish’s comments and queried where the Galway West TD was “getting his figures.”
The Minister said that according to CSO figures the amount of remittances from Ireland to Nigeria is €17m per year.
There are very clear laws with regard to remittances, he said. "I am not aware that there are flows of funding from Ireland to any country that is a cause for any investigation."
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Donohoe said, Noel Grealish should clarify information he has with regard to any country.
On the same programme, Dr Ebun Joseph, a lecturer in black studies in UCD, said that Mr Grealish was effectively saying that “black money” should be policed differently.
“He is saying let us treat this group of people differently based on their nationality.”
People like the Independent TD were “nothing but Donald Trump wannabees, wondering who can I hate the most?”
Dr Joseph called for sanctions to stop people “spinning lies unchecked”. People who remained silent were also complicit, she added.