The remarks made by Deputy Grealish at a meeting in Oughterard in September, when he referred to economic migrants from Africa as “spongers”, and his contribution during Leaders’ Question yesterday, where he implied that remittances going from Ireland to Nigeria could be the proceeds of crime and fraud, are an absolute disgrace. This is dog-whistle racism.

The members of the Rural Independent Group should be disassociating themselves from his remarks rather than backing them up. It is outrageous that Deputies in this Chamber are prepared, in order to further their own political careers, to whip up fears on these issues, pander to racism against migrant youths and peddle myths regarding asylum seekers.

The “great replacement” is a lunatic conspiracy theory that goes back directly to the Nazi party. It claims there is a plan to replace the white population in Europe through the dilution of national identity and the promotion of multiculturalism. This is absolute madness, but also very dangerous.

On direct provision, the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, MASI, has described direct provision as a shame on Ireland, comparable to the Magdalen Laundries. When direct provision was introduced, it was claimed that it was meant to be a temporary measure for six months. If that was the case, it might be tolerable. The average stay, however, is three years and eight months. This is extremely damaging for the more than 6,000 people condemned to live in these conditions, especially children. The special rapporteur on child protection has called for direct provision to be phased out and for asylum seekers to be integrated into the community.

The Minister for Justice and Equality earlier called for us to come up with proposals. I will respond directly and state that the Independents 4 Change are ready and able to meet the Minister at any time to put forward ideas for solutions. I refer to solving the housing and health crises and issues faced by rural communities. We will most definitely come up with proposals and I would love to meet the Minister and sit down with him for an hour to put these proposals forward. I am sure my colleagues would as well.

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