Sunday 23 October 2016

Justice Minister wants 'organised approach' to make the most of assistance for refugees

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald
Joan Burton
A Syrian refugee (C) reacts next to her family moments after arriving on a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, September 9, 2015.

The Justice Minister has welcomed the offers of support from the public and charities on the migrant crisis, but said an organised approach would be needed to ensure that the most was made of any assistance.

"Lots of people are making individual offers. When people come over they can't just go straight to those offers. It has to be co-ordinated," said Frances Fitzgerald.

"If people are assessed as refugees then they are effectively citizens, then they can go off and make their own decisions whether they accept offers of accommodation."

Speaking ahead of today's Fine Gael parliamentary away day, Ms Fitzgerald added: "We will have all sorts of needs for these families - language is going to be very important and education facilities and health services.

"There is co-ordination needed, but we have done this in the past with Bosnians and other refugees, so it is not something we are not used to dealing with."

Meanwhile, Fine Gael will continue to slash taxes for working people if re-elected to Government, she pledged.

Ms Fitzgerald insisted future budgets should continue the policy of evenly splitting spending on tax cuts and services.

The minister's comments will put her on a collision course with Labour leader Joan Burton, who last weekend said that she will push for more spending on services rather than taxes if her party is returned after the forthcoming general election.

"Our economic model is one that if you reduce taxes and you have more job creation there is more money coming into the economy and you have more money for services," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She also said Taoiseach Enda Kenny would assure the party that he would not call a snap election this year when Fine Gael members gathered in Adare today.

"They will be told, as the Taoiseach said all along, that we will go the full term because that is the plan," she said.

Fine Gael TDs and senators are meeting for their final parliamentary party 'think-in' of the current Dail.

Ms Fitzgerald, who is chair of Fine Gael's national election strategy committee, said candidates would be told to ask voters to "trust" them and allow the party continue the economic recovery.

"We're not going to be over-emphasising the achievements of Government.

"What we are going to be saying is that you can trust us to make the right decisions in the future to keep this recovery under way," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the forthcoming Budget would give a "clear message" to people as to what the future holds.


She made it clear that Fine Gael would continue to reduce taxes if returned, as the party was of the firm belief that the cuts introduced in this year's Budget had helped boost the economy.

The minister also hit out at "naysayers" who warned that tax cuts would mean reduced investment for services which suffered during the years of austerity.

"It's all very well to talk about services, but services are built on a strong economy.

"You cannot have investment in services - in health, more teachers, more gardai - unless you have managed the economy," the minister said.

"We want to support people out there who are working. We want to make it more worthwhile to work - that is a big focus in Fine Gael."

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