People Before Profit condemn the disgusting comments made by Galway West TD Noel Grealish at a public meeting about proposals to open a Direct Provision centre in Oughterard on last night. During a fraught night where a small number of far right actors attempted to hijack the meeting and whip up fears about asylum seekers, it is reported that Grealish threw his own hat in the ring by claiming that African migrants were coming to sponge off the system and that the only genuine refugees were Christian ones.
It is absolutely outrageous that these kinds of racist remarks would come from any elected representative, least of all a representative of a diverse constituency such as Galway West. In an atmosphere where migrants were being scapegoated and maligned, Grealish chose to add more fuel to the fire in an attempt to gain favour with those at the meeting.
There is also more to Grealish’s disgraceful behaviour than his attacks on migrants. Grealish may attempt to portray himself as a man of the people, but a look at his record in Dáil Éireann reveals a very different story.
In the past year alone, Grealish has voted against the Anti-Evictions Bill, against another bill that would improve tenant protections against vulture fund evictions, against measures that would prioritise spending on public transport over roads in order to reduce national carbon emissions and against the Mental Health Services Reports Bill which among other measures, sought to lift the recruitment freeze for psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists and other front line staff. Grealish also voted with the government in the votes of confidence for Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, who are now continuing with the policies that are decimating our public health service and facilitating an unprecedented land grab by vulture funds.
It is clear from Grealish’s record that he stands firmly with a Fine Gael government whose policies are making life miserable for vast swathes of people across the country. His racist comments are therefore more than just racism – they are a pathetic attempt to divert peoples’ justifiable anger and direct it towards some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
There is understandable anger in towns like Oughterard that have been left behind by successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments for decades. The discontent has created a space for outside actors to come in and attempt to stir up hatred and fear among local people. However, it is evident from the reactions of many people in Oughterard at the meeting and in the fallout afterwards that there is also strong opposition to racism and an understanding of where the real problems lie.
People Before Profit want to work with these people to fight for public services, for community resources, for housing, healthcare and decent jobs. We also want to fight to end the Direct Provision system and to give equal rights to asylum seekers who come to Ireland. These struggles are the same struggle against the same enemy: the wealthy elite and politicians like Noel Grealish who do their bidding.