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Monday's papers: Finns Party under scrutiny again, probe into foster home killing and shelters call for cash

Finnish dailies engage in tortured navel-gazing Monday morning as a furore continues over an anti-multiculturalism Facebook post by Finns Party MP Olli Immonen. The spotlight also turns on the shocking murder of a foster care worker at the hands of some of his young charges, and the cash crunch facing foster homes and shelters.

Perussuomalaisten kansanedustaja Olli Immonen eduskunnan täysistunnossa Helsingissä 23. kesäkuuta 2015.
Finns Party MP Olli Immonen previously received a slap on the wrist after posing with a group of far-right national socialists. Image: Anni Reenpää / Lehtikuva

Tabloid daily Ilta Sanomat reports that the update, in which Immonen calls for a “fight until the end” against “this nightmare called multiculturalism”, has riven the ranks of the first-time government coalition partner. According to the paper, while some in the party have condemned the comments, the post and its sentiments have also resonated with others.

Finns Party Europarliamentarian Jussi Halla-aho – himself convicted of hate speech – has come out in support of Immonen, wondering why the party’s anti-multicultural stance comes as a surprise.

“Just for the record, I want to tell journalists and others that I also oppose multiculturalism. I also believe multiculturalism is an ugly bubble. I don’t necessarily share his optimism that this ugly bubble will pop before it has destroyed European society, but I will do everything to ensure that it does,” Halla-aho said in a Facebook post.

More moderate members of the party, such as MP Maria Tolppanen, party secretary Riikka Slunga-Poutsalo and parliamentary group chair Sampo Terho said they were taken aback by Immonen’s post. The paper contacted seven Finns Party group leaders, four of whom agreed that the post had a negative impact.

Meanwhile Pekka Vennamo, a former chair of the Suomen Maaseudun Puolue (Finnish Rural Party), the predecessor to the Finns Party, pointed out that Immonen’s post came at the same time that Norway was remembering the 77 victims of the 2011 mass murders by far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

"Immonen’s text is like a summary of the ideological cant of Breivik’s manifesto and an answer to Breivik’s challenge to fight against multiculturalism," Vennamo wrote in Facebook.

Immonen has remained unrepentant of the Facebook furore. On Sunday he wrote another update responding to criticism of his comments, reiterating his commitment to opposing mass immigration, multiculturalism and supporting ideologies. Many members of the Finnish public have also expressed their support for the sentiments he expressed in social media and online discussion forums.

IL: Rules allow Finns Party to take serious action

Finland’s other main tabloid Iltalehti meanwhile speculates on the Finns Party’s possible grounds for expelling the controversial MP over his latest public display. The paper notes that party’s rules governing the conduct of MPs calls on parliamentarians to behave "seriously, with dignity and without causing offence to others". The rules were endorsed by MPs in March 2014.

Other party regulations allow a meeting of the parliamentary group to issue a caution or warning to a member for inappropriate behaviour, negligence or for actions contravening the rules or decisions of the group and in extreme cases to suspend or expel a member.

The rules also allow chair Timo Soini and the party leadership to expel a party member if the individual’s actions have harmed the organisation. Parliamentary group chair Sampo Terho said on Sunday that Immonen’s inflammatory post could affect the Finns Party’s reputation.

The man at the top Timo Soini has remained mum on the latest incident and has previously been criticised for his apparent kids’ gloves approach to similar cases. The party’s most high-profile expulsion involved MP James Hirvisaari, who was kicked out over a Nazi salute incident in the Parliament. Even MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who was convicted in the courts of inciting racial hatred, has retained his position and influence in the party.

Police, health officials probe foster home murder

The country’s broadest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the public health watchdog Valvira is to begin an investigation into the murder of a senior worker at the Metsola foster home for troubled underage boys in Muhos, near Oulu.

Police have held a number of young residents of the home on suspicion of murder. The perpetrators allegedly fled the scene in a stolen vehicle and were later rounded up in Kuopio. Police say they know how the crime was committed but have not divulged that information, nor further details about the number of suspects involved.

The 58 year-old victim had apparently been working alone at the facility at the time of the incident on Friday night. While police investigate the motive for the crime, Valvira and local administrative officials are to begin looking into the foster home’s operations its personnel policies.

The Metsola home can accommodate five young men at a time and personnel are specially trained to work with challenging cases.

Shelters bemoan inadequate funding

Coming off the press in Turku, southwest Finland, the broadsheet Turun Sanomat reports that foster homes are up in arms over what they see as inadequate state funding for their operations – in spite of new legislation introduced to ensure they have access to sufficient financing.

Foster homes in major cities such as Turku, Helsinki and Tampere say the lack of funding is causing them to cut back on operations, even though they would otherwise be able to offer additional places to young people in need.

The operators say that the current state of affairs could result in a situation where they are unable to intervene in critical cases because of the budget shortfalls.

“If we have a lot of customers at the end of the year then it’s possible we will have to cut back and we won’t be able to house applicants,” said Maria Länsiö of Tampere’s association of care homes and shelters.

Before legislative changes to guarantee state support for the operations of foster homes and shelters, local municipalities had to first grant a payment guarantee to candidates looking for accommodation.

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