Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted a spoof election video, released by Fine Gael and later deleted, was making a “serious point in a comical way”.
The video released on the party’s Twitter account, which attracted significant negative social media commentary on Friday night, was later deleted.
The video, set to the Benny Hill theme music, features people wearing masks of Fianna Fáil front bench members Michael McGrath, Willie O’Dea and Eamon Ó Cuív alongside leader Micheál Martin .
Video an embarrassment as a FG member. Where are we going from here!!!— Noel O Connor (@noeltoconnor) January 17, 2020
A child was murdered and mutilated,— martinmcmahon (@williamhboney1) January 17, 2020
A homeless man crushed,
A homeless woman died,
A student murdered.
I just can't, @FineGael occupy a different world altogether. They deny the #poshboys label but it's so true. #GE2020 https://t.co/wfcOFEsUDD
Seriously ?any chance you could focus on politics and not creating cringe videos!— Suzie Houlihan (@Sanhou) January 17, 2020
The video shows them conducting an apparently forlorn search for “policies” in bins, kitchen cabinets, and under tables, and ended with a screen stating that “over 72 hours into GE2020 Fianna Fáil hasn’t produced any policies”.
Mr Varadkar defended the production as he confirmed that the party had taken it down because “some people thought it was silly and we want to make the same point perhaps in a more serious way”.
He said “the video was making a serious point in a comical way”that Fianna Fáil has “no serious policies and the party that purports to wish to lead the next government isn’t offering anything serious in terms of the economy or Brexit or health or housing or anything else”.
On Saturday morning, the video - which had attracted over 133,000 views overnight - was no longer available on the Fine Gael Twitter account.
Some Twitter users expressed anger that the video had been released after a week that saw multiple violent incidents, including a shooting incident on Friday, a fatal stabbing on Thursday, and the discovery of the remains of Keane Mulready-Woods earlier in the week.
Asked about the critical response to the video and if he regretted it he said “when it comes to social media you get negative commentary no matter what you put up. That’s just the nature of social media space.”
Mr Varadkar denied that Fine Gael is the nasty party of the election. “We’re a very kind and caring party and we’re a party that’s absolutely committed to making our country a better place.”
He denied that his party was engaging too much in negative campaigning but he said it was always the case in political debate that all parties “point out the flaws and shortcomings and lack of policies from other parties”.
Meanwhile Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has dismissed the Fine Gael video as silly and juvenile but said Fianna Fáil would not be distracted by it and would continue to focus on debate the many serious issues facing the country.
“We’ve had a tough week - some terrible shocking murders on the crime front, we have very serious issues in housing and health and a lot of people felt in the context of what happened it was not appropriate at this juncture
“But Fine Gael have said from the outset that they were going on a negative attack campaign and this video is a further manifestation of that - to me it was not only a very silly video and quite juvenile but in bad taste as well.”
Mr Martin said he had met many people on the campaign trail who were not Fianna Fail supporters but acknowledge his support for the minority Fine Gael government to provide stability during the Brexit negotiations.
“They may not be Fianna Fáil supporters but they are saying to me, we appreciate what you did in the last four or five year when we compare this country to Britain in terms of the parliamentary system
“They are saying ‘You guys held it together, you gave space to negotiate Brexit and we appreciate that and I don’t think the public really react to those silly, almost juvenile videos in the way the authors of them think they might.
“It’s time for serious politics to discuss the serious issues facing the country - they are a lot of families grieving this week and we need to address these serious issues and that’s what we in Fianna Fail will do in this campaign.
Mr Martin was speaking while on the campaign trail in Douglas in his Cork South Central Constituency where he and running mate, Michael McGrath are bidding to retain Fianna Fail’s two seats in the four seat constituency.