By Daniel McConnell and Elaine Loughlin
Fine Gael will not axe Verona Murphy from their ticket ahead of next week's by-election despite anger in the party over her asylum seeker comments.
While many in the party are furious at the damage her comments have caused and would like to see her removed from the ticket, Fine Gael have been left with no other option but to support her given the proximity to election day.
Ms Murphy has apologised for remarks made to multiple media organisations in which she suggested that those who seek asylum in Ireland need to be "deprogrammed".
She also visited a direct provision centre to directly meet with asylum seekers after claiming children as young as three could have been influenced or manipulated by ISIS before arriving in Ireland.
Candidates wishing to run in the four by-elections had until noon last Friday to submit their names in the race, but candidates only had until Saturday to withdraw their nomination. This means that Ms Murphy's name would still appear on the ballot paper even if Fine Gael drop her.
"The timing has hobbled our options," said one senior party member, adding that there is "exasperation" over the issue.
Another member of the party in Wexford said: "The party have to get fully behind her at this stage, this has come in the middle of the election campaign, there isn't the time or the option for people to be sitting back to evaluate it at this point."
He said Fine Gael members in the constituency had hoped the issue would be put to bed early but it has "festered".
In the Dáil Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan moved to “categorically disassociate” himself from comments.
Mr Flanagan was asked by Fianna Fáil's Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan about the status of hate crime legislation and said the minister should be minded to remind “members of his own party” as to the prescribed sanction for engaging in such activity.
Mr Flanagan hit back and made an indirect reference to comments made by Lorraine Clifford-Lee on Twitter nine years ago but did say he did not agree in any way with the comments made by Ms Murphy.
Mr Flanagan said: "I want to categorically disassociate myself from comments made by Ms Verona Murphy, who is our own party candidate in Wexford as I'm sure he will in respect of his own party candidate in another part of the country.
Mr O'Callaghan said in reference to recent comments made by people involved in the political domain that it is a criminal offence to publish written material that is threatening abusive or insulting and is intended or likely to stir up hatred against groups because of their race, colour, religion or national origin.
“The minister should bring it to the attention of certain figures in your own party because of their utterances in recent times,” he said.