Ukip MLA David McNarry yesterday found himself at the centre of a row over the refugee crisis after a comment led to a Sinn Fein MLA accusing him of being xenophobic.
However, Mr McNarry has hit back, lashing out at Sinn Fein for failing “to deal with our own vulnerable people” while “wanting to bring in thousands” of refugees from Syria.
Mr McNarry told the Nolan Show: “It’s very easy to - and I do understand those who do, perhaps it’s their makeup - get emotionally hysteric over this. It was an undoubtedly shocking photo on the front of yesterday’s papers as you say and you’d really need to be a heartless brute not to have been sickened by the photo of the little boy.
Mr McNarry told the News Letter he would be open to accepting some refugees.
However, the Strangford MLA added: “You let in some, so you create the precedent of some once you’ve done that and you set the standards of that, how do you deny any other people? Do you think there is not going to be another photo ever of another child drowned on a beach in Turkey or somewhere else?”
He said he felt “gutted and absolutely sick” after seeing the images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed ashore off the coast of Turkey on Wednesday.
“You wouldn’t be human unless you felt very distressed about the photograph,” he said.
Mr McNarry said he hopes that those coming to the UK would be “legitimate refugees”.
“In the past what has happened – and the figures are there – that people coming into our country are criminals, rapists, murderers, people associated with terrorist organisations; no wonder Sinn Fein would welcome them, and they haven’t been through the system,” said Mr McNarry.
The Ukip leader in Northern Ireland added: “We need to be able to sift through these people and see how genuine they are.” Mr McNarry said any response to the crisis in Syria needs to be well considered and he attacked the “hypocrisy of Sinn Fein”.
“These people can’t even put welfare reform through to deal with our own vulnerable people and they’re wanting to bring in thousands, according to Martin McGuinness.”
Yesterday, after Mr McNarry appeared on the BBC Radio Ulster Nolan Show, Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan tweeted that she had “put Ukip’s David McNarry back into his xenophobic box” on the programme.
Mr McNarry denied the claim that he is xenophobic and said Ukip’s position is very clear. He said: “We don’t want to see our country taken away from us or given to other people. If you are going to open your doors to somebody, that’s fair enough, but are you opening your doors to them permanently?”
After the backlash over his views, Mr McNarry said he was concerned about racism in Northern Ireland, which he blamed on “a vicious minority”.
“We need to equip people to accept other people. They won’t accept people who are coming in to take their jobs, who will take houses that they think they should have, who will jump the queues in hospitals and who will take places in schools. So if we’re going to bring in lots of newcomers then we’ve got to make provision that we protect the local people and help them with an understanding as well.”
Thousands of people across the UK have pledged to take in refugees from Syria but Mr McNarry questioned what the consequences would be.
Mr McNarry said: “Are people going to open their doors and bring them into their own houses and give them a room, and then the next thing the whole family arrives?”