Fine Gael MEPs are defending voting against a proposal for the European Union to step up search-and-rescue operations for refugees in the Mediterranean.

All four of Fine Gael’s MEPs – Mayo’s Maria Walsh, Mairead McGuinness, Frances Fitzgerald, and Sean Kelly - voted against the motion, which was defeated by just two votes in the European Parliament yesterday afternoon.

The resolution called for EU member states to “enhance proactive search and rescue operations by providing sufficient vessels and equipment specifically dedicated to search and rescue operations and personnel, along the routes where they can make an effective contribution to the preservation of lives” in the Mediterranean.

The vote was held just a day after 39 Chinese nationals were found dead in a lorry in Essex. Other Irish MEPs backed the resolution.

Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy said afterwards there were “serious questions” for Fine Gael after they failed to back the motion.

However, Maria Walsh has defended the move on behalf of herself and her three Fine Gael colleagues in the Parliament.

 “We want to save lives and fight human traffickers and to do that, we need a coherent, comprehensive and long-term EU response to Search and Rescue in the Mediterranean,” she said.

We need to urgently step up the fight against the organised criminals and human traffickers who profit on the vulnerable.

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