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    Kenny invokes emigrant heritage in immigrant speech

    By admin | January 24, 2007

    Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has stirred some controversy with a speech about immigration.

    Mr Kenny invoked Ireland’s emigrant heritage in his speech, directed at a meeting of the party and its new general election candidates. He said,

    We live in a country that exported our people, not by the boatload, or by the planeload, but by the generation.

    We live in a country where hundreds of thousands of families lived for the postal order that put food on the table and clothes on their backs thanks to a father and often his sons slaving on the building sites of London and New York and San Francisco.

    So it’s safe to say that we live in a country where you’d have to have a very small mind, a very short memory and a very hard heart not to welcome the stranger who is trying to make a better life, a more hopeful life for themselves and their families.

    Mr Kenny went on to call for a debate on immigration, saying that “I believe that immigration and multiculturalism can be good for Ireland but the current system is not being managed well. We need a system that is good for the Irish and good for the immigrants.”

    Mr Kenny added:

    Fine Gael has three priorities to make immigration work for Ireland: Immigrants have rights and responsibilities. They should have the right to be free of discrimination and have their contribution to the country recognised, but they have the responsibility to integrate into our community, comply with our laws and respect our cultural traditions. I do not want to see a situation developing in which our immigrant population live separate lives. We have a responsibility to facilitate and encourage this integration.

    Several commentators have picked up on the fact that Mr Kenny called the Irish a “Celtic and Christian people” and questioned whether these labels apply.

    Read the speech on the Fine Gael website.

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