A Fine Gael by-election candidate has apologised after claiming that some asylum seekers coming to Ireland have to be "deprogrammed" as they "carry angst" and may have been "infiltrated by ISIS". 

Verona Murphy said her remarks on RTÉ's This Week programme were "a very poor choice of words and I am very sorry to anyone who was offended by them". 

Ms Murphy, who is standing in the Wexford by-election, told This Week she believes there were problems with the direct provision services and asylum seekers should not be accommodated where support services were not readily available. 

Referring to a recent campaign launched against proposals to site a direct provision centre in Oughterard, Co Galway, Ms Murphy said: "I believe there are issues with the direct provision, and I believe that the people of Oughterard were absolutely justified because they hadn't been given enough information.

"These people are coming from such war-torn countries that they have to be deprogrammed, for the want of a better word, but through support services.

"They carry angst that you wouldn't ordinarily see, possibly infiltrated by ISIS and we have to protect ourselves against that.

"There are support services available, but they have to be available as much as the accommodation.

"Do not house those people where those support services are not readily available."

Her comments were criticised by the Irish Refugee Council and by opposition parties.

Tonight, Ms Murphy issued a statement to apologise for her comments.

"This was a very poor choice of words and I am very sorry to anyone who was offended by them," she said.

"People coming here fleeing persecution deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. They need to be given opportunities to forge a new start for themselves and their families. That is why we have direct provision: to provide board and lodging to people seeking asylum.

"The point I was trying to make was that some people coming to this country do so from very difficult circumstances and the support services they need here have a vital role in helping them."

A spokesperson for Fine Gael added: "Immigration enriches our country socially, culturally and economically.

"It is a strength that we are now one of the most diverse countries in the EU, with 17% of the population born outside Ireland.

"It is a strength that our workforce is the third most international in Europe and that we are a place where people want to live and work."

Other declared candidates in the Wexford by-election are: Johnny Mythen (Sinn Féin), George Lawlor (Labour), Karin Dubsky (Green Party), Cinnamon Blackmore (People Before Profit), Jim Codd (Aontú), Melissa O'Neill (Irish Freedom Party), Malcolm Byrne (Fianna Fáil) and Charlie Keddy (Ind).

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