Fine Gael have embarrassed themselves with their handling of the Verona Murphy scandal
Once upon a time, a Fine Gael representative embarrassed the party.
Maria Bailey fell off a swing which, even by itself, is embarrassing. She then made a frivolous insurance claim against an Irish business. Her claim complained that the swing was "unsupervised".
She then surprised her colleagues by turning up on Morning Ireland and declining to answer questions on whether she had drinks in both hands when she fell. Last week, Fine Gael members from Dun Laoghaire decided to deselect her, deciding that enough embarrassment was enough.
In the end, Bailey pulled everything down on her own head. At several steps, she could have saved herself, just embarrassed herself a little bit less and she would still be a rising star in Fine Gael.
How do we know this? Fine Gael's current treatment of Verona Murphy.
Ms. Murphy, the Fine Gael candidate for the Wexford by-election to replace Mick Wallace, has had to apologise more than once this week for her comments regarding migrants come to Ireland. Speaking to the Wexford People last week, Murphy said: "We also have to take into account the possibility that ISIS have already manipulated children as young as three or four."
The comments came after she had already told the Irish Times that ISIS was a "big part" of Ireland's migrant population. She also told RTÉ that some asylum seekers might need to be "deprogrammed".
The tenor and inaccuracy of the comments easily match Noel Grealish's claims about Nigerian remittances that caused Paschal Donohoe to "recoil" and were branded "disgusting and potentially dangerous" by Eoghan Murphy.
Those Fine Gael ministers must know that for a potential public official to say that three-year old babies have been brainwashed by ISIS is quite simply disqualifying, fear-mongering nonsense.
Whether it's a bad faith argument by someone with an agenda, or an ignorant comment made by someone with an unforgivably poor understanding of the situation, our response should be the same. Such a person is not fit to be among the few dozen people who make our legislation.
Anyone so easily misled by such nefarious mistruths to the point that they take it upon themselves to further spread those mistruths is just not up to the job.
With a quick glance at Murphy's policy positions, it becomes evident that she's prepared to break with her party on several issues. In that same interview with Wexford People, she has gone as far as to invoke personal choices and addiction as reasons for homelessness. She broke with the government on drink-driving laws and housing policy.
So why the hell are Fine Gael backing her?
Clearly, Fine Gael surveyed the damage and decided that Murphy's candidacy could be salvaged, even if some senior figures had to cut up their hands to do so.
Best candidate by far in Wexford bye-election contest is @VeronaMurphyFG. Positive reception in New Ross where voters recognize her strong campaigning skills & boundless energy. #wexfordbyelection19 pic.twitter.com/hw4ha2X2az
— Charlie Flanagan (@CharlieFlanagan) November 16, 2019
Minister Charlie Flanagan was landed with the task of chaperoning Murphy around a Direct Provision centre in Waterford, allowing her to make sure that those fleeing war-torn backgrounds and devastating circumstances weren't secret agents of ISIS after all.
In a joint statement released by the pair afterwards, Murphy accepted that "all they want is the chance to live safely and without fear. I understand that wish". Flanagan nodded along and said that Murphy had gained "enormous insights" from that one, single, solitary visit.
It's all about as comforting as when the principal calls you into his office with the school bully and the bully agrees to stop torturing you, and then once the principal's back is turned, the bully turns to you and makes a throat-slitting gesture across his neck.
The whole stunt was crass and reductive. The idea that someone can be rehabilitated of such awful, mistaken attitudes by a short visit to a Direct Provision centre is an insult to any society that cares about human rights.
For refugees, already mistreated by Ireland's Direct Provision system, to be used for political gain by the ruling party is disgusting and shameful.
Indeed, it's a very real concern that someone who expressed the views Murphy did would be brought to a refugee centre where the identities of refugees could become known to her.
That these people, who can be ignored by our government for years while seeking asylum, would be used as a teaching aide for someone so demonstrably unfit to govern, is sickening.
In Dáil Éireann today, Flanagan said that he "categorically dissociates" himself from Murphy's comments. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also spoken out against his party's candidate, saying that she was "wrong" and "misinformed". Nevertheless, they would very much like the people of Wexford to vote for Verona Murphy.
There can be only one answer. Fine Gael want the seat, and in order to get it, they'll sell out refugees, their own policies and the reputations of their senior ministers.
Fine Gael's continued support of Murphy should tell us all we need to know about what they're prepared to accept. After all, this is simply a candidate for a seat that FG didn't hold in the first place. They shouldn't have had anything to lose here, it would cost them nothing to cut Murphy loose.
And yet, here they are, presenting their reputation for yet another bollocking. Embarrassing.