Finian McGrath: Ridicule over N Korea plan ‘a sad day for democracy’

Independent Alliance TD concerned at ‘lack of balanced thought in modern Irish society’

Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath has said he and his colleagues were ‘ganged up on’ over their mooted visit to North Korea. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath has said he and his colleagues were ‘ganged up on’ over their mooted visit to North Korea. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath has said he and his colleagues John Halligan and Shane Ross were “ganged up on” and “ridiculed” in relation to their mooted visit to North Korea.

The Minister of State with responsibility for disability said he was concerned about the “group think” in Irish society and the media which was intolerant of diverse views.

Mr McGrath was speaking ahead of a Praxis Care conference on autism in Dublin on Friday after Minister for Transport Shane Ross announced the proposed visit was “off”.

Mr McGrath said he would “always be bound by the collective view of the Cabinet in relation to foreign policy” but that he was an “old fashioned” anti-nuclear war campaigner.

“I’m always on about nuclear disarmament. I think we have major problems in relation to North Korea and the US. I think we have a very volatile situation there and I will express that voice within Government.”

The trip had been “an idea we were just talking about it in a very friendly manner, an inclusive manner” and had been discussed in a “private conversation” which was overheard in the Dáil canteen.

“The one thing I would say I’m very concerned about is there seems to be a group think both in the Irish media and Irish society generally and I’ve seen it over the last week which is very, very serious for any person who thinks they are liberal and open minded,” he said.

“People have different views and diverse views, so what why ridicule them and attack people who basically want to do good things and have a peaceful and democratic world?”

‘Sad day’

The whole episode was a “sad day for democracy” he said.

“I’m a bit concerned about the lack of balanced thought in modern Irish society and the ganging up on three individuals because we are seen to have different views and I just think that it’s a sad day for society and a sad day for democracy.”

Separately, he said the conduct of Mr Halligan, Minister of State at the Department of Business, while interviewing a woman for the position of private secretary, had been “wrong”.

The Workplace Relations Commission awarded the woman €7,500 after Mr Halligan questioned her about her family during the job interview.

“I’m very, very disappointed with the whole thing,” Mr McGrath said. “It was wrong and John knows it was wrong. John is very full of remorse. He’s going to pay the money and he’s also apologised for it and I think that’s the most important thing, but it was wrong and John knows that – we all know that.”

However, he said there was no risk of the Independent Alliance collapsing. “We are different brands of Independents but the one cohesive thing we have is we’re all very good friends.

“The five of us are very very solid. We want to implement the programme for Government. There is a difference of views but there’s no division. We don’t do rows, we don’t do splits, we do diversity.”