Kenny defends ‘courageous’ immigration speech

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday insisted he had been “courageous” in trying to spark a national debate on immigration.

As he met muslim leaders at the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, Mr Kenny said an open conversation was needed on the issue if Ireland is to avoid problems encountered by neighbouring countries like Britain and France in 15 years’ time.

The Fine Gael leader provoked controversy last week when he called for new comers to the country to realise the Irish are a “Christian celtic” people.

Potential Rainbow coalition partner Labour leader Pat Rabbitte distanced himself from the terminology used by Mr Kenny — which some commentators warned could feed xenophobia — but backed the Fine Gael idea of a dedicated immigration minister.

Mr Kenny insisted newcomers to the country had responsibilities as well as rights and that immigration had to be managed “in a way that keeps Ireland safe”.

Mr Rabbitte ruled out a joint Rainbow policy on immigration despite the fact that the two parties are coordinating their approach to a number of other issues.

Mr Kenny said his meeting with Islamic leaders had been “positive”.

“This is part of my contribution to a national debate about immigration.

“As a small country at this stage of our development, we have an opportunity to get the immigration issue right and to make sure that the mistakes made by other countries don’t get repeated here over the next 15 years.

“It’s part of being courageous enough to speak openly and comprehensively about an issue that is important, but in a real way so that you can get a process of immigration to Ireland where it is both good for Ireland and the immigrant,” he said.

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