Fianna Fáil MEP claims Daly and Wallace had spread ‘conspiracy theory’ on Syria

Barry Andrews referred to comments made by fellow Irish MEPs on chemical weapons attack

‘Irish MEPs often work together on important files but I would like to express my revulsion at the likes of this disinformation,’ Barry Andrews said. Photograph: Donall Farmer f

‘Irish MEPs often work together on important files but I would like to express my revulsion at the likes of this disinformation,’ Barry Andrews said. Photograph: Donall Farmer f

 

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews has accused fellow MEPs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly of spreading a conspiracy theory, in a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday.

Speaking in Irish, the MEP for Dublin expressed “revulsion” at what he said was a conspiracy theory spread by the two about a chemical weapons attack in Syria and declared “not in my name”.

The intervention was made in a debate about foreign interference in democratic processes in the European Union, at a sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Mr Andrews raised an incident at a parliament subcommittee hearing in April in which Mr Wallace and Ms Daly challenged a guest speaker, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fernando Arias.

“During this committee meeting, I am ashamed to say that two Irish MEPs used their platform to progress their conspiracy theory that the White Helmets staged an attack on the civilian population of Douma, Syria,” Mr Andrews saitold the European Parliament.

“Irish MEPs often work together on important files but I would like to express my revulsion at the likes of this disinformation. “

“Until now, I have been quiet I stand against internal attacks on our democracy. I want to say, not in my name.”

The White Helmets are a Syrian humanitarian rescue group that collected evidence of atrocities in the war-torn country, and have been subject of smear campaigns backed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and ally Russia.

Mr Wallace challenged the OPCW director at the April subcommittee meeting, accusing his organisation of wrongly blaming the Assad regime for the 2018 attack when really the White Helmets had staged it.

He was challenged by committee chair, French MEP Nathalie Loiseau, who said his words contradicted the words of victims and human rights groups in Syria, and accused him of “fake news”.

Ms Daly subsequently raised the issue again, before Ms Loiseau asked her to conclude, saying she was repeating the issue that Mr Wallace had raised.

In response, Mr Arias said the investigation into the chemical attack by his organisation had not sought to attribute responsibility to any side, but instead to establish the facts of what had happened.

“The report says that there is good reason to believe that use was made of a chemical weapon, chlorine, in this attack. The conclusions of the report have never been disputed by a state party, even the Russian delegation agrees with the conclusions,” Mr Arias said.

“The fact finding mission report on Douma had nothing to do with attribution of responsibility, its aim was only to establish the facts, and the fact is that chlorine was used in an attack which led to fatalities.”

He then quoted from a separate United Nations report which found a chemical cylinder had been dropped from a helicopter onto a residential building in Douma, causing 49 deaths.

A further UN has report found the Assad regime had conducted numerous chemical attacks on Syrian civilians, he said.

Mr Wallace and Ms Daly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.