Fine Gael MEPs have rejected widespread criticism that they are turning their backs on refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean after voting against a European parliament motion to improve supports for migrants making the journey.
Mairead McGuinness and Maria Walsh defended the decision, after they, as well as Sean Kelly and Frances Fitzgerald, all voted against the motion.
In a controversial decision on Thursday, the Fine Gael MEPs voted against the EU’s border coast guard Frontex sharing information on refugees travelling across the Mediterranean with all ships in the area.
The motion eventually fell by 290 votes to 288 — with 36 abstentions — meaning if two of the Fine Gael MEPs had voted in favour, the plans would have passed.
The situation led to a public backlash against the Irish MEPs yesterday, with criticism they are turning their backs on vulnerable people.
However, Ms McGuinness and Ms Walsh both insisted the vote was more complicated than it initially appeared.
“We had concerns about the actual content of it, not the objective,” Ms McGuinness told RTÉ News yesterday, saying in her view the plans would have “made the situation worse” as it would have forced the EU “to share information with all ships in the region, including traffickers”.
She added that she “will not allow anyone challenge my ethics or morality around saving lives”.
Mr Kelly faced similar criticism after posting a photo on Twitter of his meal while leaving the European parliament meeting in Strasbourg, while Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher — who said he would have voted for the motion — was also criticised after it emerged he was beginning a multi-city trip back to Cork while the ballot took place.