The Verona Murphy fiasco - Don’t shut down debate

Those who see the Taoiseach as a politician with a tendency to make stuff up as he goes along could do worse than point to his responses before and after the Wexford by-election, now notorious for Verona Murphy’s remarks about migrants.

The Verona Murphy fiasco - Don’t shut down debate

Those who see the Taoiseach as a politician with a tendency to make stuff up as he goes along could do worse than point to his responses before and after the Wexford by-election, now notorious for Verona Murphy’s remarks about migrants.

Before the ballot, he said he thought her comment was “wrong”, “misinformed”, and “ill-advised”, but she had his “confidence. Now, he says selecting her as a Fine Gael candidate was a “mistake”, but the consoling news was she hadn’t been elected.

Had she been successful, she would as a TD been “emboldened” and that “we would’ve heard more of that”. Well, what a lucky break that was! Mr Varadkar really is missing that Strategic Communications – or Spin – Unit.

There is, however, a far more worrying aspect of this fiasco. Ms Murphy’s language was ill-chosen and her motives might be questioned, but her comment has been used as an opportunity to shut down entirely legitimate debate about the undoubted link between migration from the Middle East and North Africa and Islamic State-inspired terrorism that continues to be a threat throughout the Western world.

Shutting down debate — be it about Islam, Israel, far-right extremism, transgender rights, or attempts to sanitise history and no-platform speakers whose speech merely offends — has been an alarming trend in Western political and academic circles.

Its consequence will be the crushing of critical thinking and free speech, the hallmarks of a liberal society.

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