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Ireland Voters' views on migrants and race tested as ministers braced for results

09:10  30 november  2019
09:10  30 november  2019 Source:   independent.ie

Don't be surprised if voters reject both these two for another election

  Don't be surprised if voters reject both these two for another election Don't be surprised if voters reject both these two for another electionEditor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The Government is bracing itself for the first electoral test on the country's views on immigration and race And today's results will be closely scrutinised in political circles, particularly if there are wins for either One minister said there was a perception that the controversies surrounding both candidates

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a little girl sitting on a table: Child’s play: Lorraine Clifford-Lee votes with her daughter Kitty (5) in St Patrick's National School, Donabate. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie © RollingNews.ie Child’s play: Lorraine Clifford-Lee votes with her daughter Kitty (5) in St Patrick's National School, Donabate. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Government is bracing itself for the first electoral test on the country's views on immigration and race after a divisive campaign.

The by-election race played out against a backdrop of weeks of debate on asylum seekers, direct provision centres and Travellers.

Candidates for the two largest parties found themselves at the centre of political storms after expressing controversial views about immigrants and Travellers.

And today's results will be closely scrutinised in political circles, particularly if there are wins for either Fine Gael's Verona Murphy or Fianna Fáil's Lorraine Clifford-Lee in the by-elections.

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Fine Gael's Wexford candidate Ms Murphy made comments linking immigrants to Isil, claiming some asylum seekers need to be "deprogrammed" and the terror group is a "big part of the migrant population".

Ms Murphy visited a reception centre for refugees and apologised for the remarks. Her comments came amid unrest and protest around the country as the Government struggles to find accommodation for asylum seekers.

A senior Government source said: "If she does well or wins, it's because of what she said.

"If she does poorly, it's because of what she said. Most likely she'll get 20-30pc, which is what she was always going to get."

In Dublin Fingal, social media posts by Fianna Fáil's candidate Ms Clifford-Lee dating from 2011 and 2012 came back to haunt her.

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She repeatedly used the word 'pikey' and said in another tweet that items of clothing were "like something from a Traveller wedding".

When the tweets emerged, Ms Clifford-Lee apologised and said the posts were "totally inappropriate and wrong" and "in no way reflects my opinion on minority issues".

The tweets are believed to have damaged her campaign but she is still expected to garner significant support and could still top the poll while not winning a Dáil seat.

Sources in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sought to play down the impact the controversies have had on the race, but today's results will be closely examined in political circles. One minister said there was a perception that the controversies surrounding both candidates would have a "very negative impact" on their chances when they first emerged. But the source suggested they "won't suffer in the way some people thought they would, myself included".

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Immigration is not said to have been raised much on the doorsteps in Wexford, though the minister conceded: "It's one of those subjects people don't talk about even though they might have views."

The minister said there was "an anti-political correctness mood out there" but questioned whether it would translate into votes. They said by-elections tended to be decided on local issues and the candidates themselves.

A senior Fianna Fáil source said it would suit some to portray the by-elections as an acid test of voters' views on race and immigration. "They are ever-present but they should not be used as a litmus test. People are voting to get a TD to improve their constituency."

Another Fine Gael minister said: "I think people are going to read a lot into this, whatever numbers show up on a really poor turnout."

They referred to the 23pc support Independent candidate Peter Casey got in the presidential election. The result came despite severe criticism of Mr Casey after he made controversial comments about Travellers during last year's campaign.

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Mr Casey's support was less than 10pc in the more recent European elections, which had a higher turnout than the presidential election.

"The numbers look inflated when nobody shows up," the minister said, predicting that the by-election turnout would be "appalling".

Voting was slow in all four constituencies - including Dublin Mid-West and Cork North-Central - with predictions of turnout as low as a third of the electorate.

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