Donegal artist Kevin Sharkey says Irish need to have honest discussions on changing Ireland and put the Irish first.

Irish artist, activist and prospective presidential candidate Kevin Sharkey called for an open dialogue about immigration in Ireland and said he felt the Irish people were censoring themselves when is came to discussing the subject.

Sharkey, who hopes to be Ireland’s first black president, spoke about his aspirations to replace Michael D Higgins as President of Ireland, giving back to Ireland and the island’s changing society on the Ray D’Arcy show on RTE on Saturday night. The Donegal artist confirmed that he was hoping to receive a nomination to run for president later this year.

During the TV interview Sharkey spoke about the impact of immigration on Ireland. The interviewer, D’Arcy, pointed out that his stance on immigration might be seen as ironic given Sharkey’s own background.

He said “My father was an immigrant, there are a lot of positive aspects to immigration but it is going to end up coming down to one thing and that is numbers.

"We are not a big country and in 20 years time, at the rate we are going, we have places in Ireland now where there are people who are feeling they no longer have a choice, no longer have a say.

"I'm not against immigration. Look at Australia, they have a beautiful system there. If you are contributing, if you have a trade that we need and you can support yourself you are welcome.

"We should have an honest open dialogue about it without being shut down and called racist.

"We have a history of being generous and kind, we have a history of helping people and sometimes word gets out. It would be lovely to think that everyone contributes but I think we have shifted over to this grey area of we are Europeans now, we are not Irish and to say that you are proud to be Irish is now seen almost as... some people would call you racist. It's crazy."

Sharkey outlined what he hoped to do in his role of President, echoing Trump’s “America first” speeches. He said “I'd hope to bring an awareness to the fact that in Ireland we seem to have shifted away a little bit from looking after the Irish first.

"I think it is great that we give so many people a great life in Ireland but we can't give everyone a great life."

He added that he believes Ireland’s priorities have to change.

"I've seen the effect of the good and the bad sides of immigration, you know, how it helps a country to grow and develop. And also how sometimes it puts a strain on the resources. We are a very small country and I have spent a long time wondering at what point do we say 'we need to start looking after Irish people as a priority'.

"People talk about the housing crisis in Ireland. I don't think it is so much of a housing crisis, I think it is a priority crisis.

"The armed forces are underfunded, the hospitals, the housing situation... it is very difficult to explain to people why you are not in a priority position if you are Irish. Why we are seen, more and more, as a go-to destination."

He gave the United Kingdom as a stark example of what mass immigration can do to a country.

"It's great when people come to Ireland and contribute and respect our culture but I think when you go to other places like the UK you start to see that without proper integration the idea of multiculturalism can end up in ghettos,” Sharkey said.

"It matters to me very much that in 200 years, Ireland is still Ireland. I think they way we are at the moment I worry that that is not going to be the case.

Sharkey also questions Ireland’s level of foreign aid. He said Ireland had "fallen into this politically correct speech and people are censoring themselves when they really should be able to have an honest dialogue."

He posed the question as to whether Ireland could look after its older people as well as immigrants to come to the country.

“Can we not do both?” Sharky asked. “I would love to think we could do both but I don't see that happening. I see this shift towards the European experiment, taking orders from unelected officials in Brussels.

"What I have concluded is what is really going on is Ireland is being repopulated and it doesn't seem to matter to the powers that be who is coming. They are not going to end up in Dublin 4.

"If we don't protect our future, if we don't protect what we have, what has made us Irish, we won't be Irish in 200 years."

Watch the full interview here:

Ireland’s next presidential election will take place in November 2018. Michael D Higgins, who was elected in 2011, intends on running for a second term. Other possible nominees for the election include Senator Gerard Craughwell, Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, and MEP Seán Kelly.

Donegal artist and presidential candidate Kevin Sharkey.RTE