Micheál Martin says SF and some Independents are anti-European
Fianna Fáil leader says his party hopes to win a European seat in each constituency
Micheal Martin: “You never hear any pro-EU approach from these parties.” Photograph: Eric Luke
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has made a scathing attack on Sinn Féin and a number of prominent Independent candidates in the EU parliament elections accusing them of being inherently anti-European.
Speaking at the launch of his party’s manifesto for the elections on Thursday, Mr Martin said there was “a real possibility that Ireland could send to the parliament MEPs who (have) a fundamentally anti-EU position and… will spend endless hours pursing false conspiracies about EU militarisation.”
In a clear reference to Midland North West MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Mr Martin said “one of our MEPs has been almost unchallenged with his calls for Ireland to follow Britain with Brexit and go out of the EU”.
On Sinn Féin, he said this party had consistently “been fomenting an anti-EU approach and they take stances within EU parliament which is concerning in my view”.
He said Sinn Féin had “been soft on Russia in the way that Russia seeks to undermine the European Union”.
He said its “silence had been striking” in relation to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
He also pointed to the critical approach of Sinn Féin, Mr Flanagan, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, to the Canadian-EU free trade agreement.
“Free trade has been the central underpinning of Irish economic development. As a small trading nation we depend on a global economic environment that (is trade oriented).
“You never hear any pro-EU approach from these parties in terms of the importance of free trade in Ireland.”
He said likewise that group had accused the EU of “some kind of military conspiracy” particularly around Pesco.
“How many times in the last five decades have we heard the same scare tactic of an EU army being planned and it has never happened.”
The party’s director of elections Lisa Chambers said “anybody suggesting Pesco correlated to an EU army does not understand the intention and basis of it, which is to protect our troops.
“As a small country it is incumbent to work with other states to share best practice and knowledge and give us assurance on EU peace-keeping missions, so they are the best trained they can possibly be. That’s why we support it.”
Mr Martin also criticised Fine Gael and the European People’s Party, to which it is aligned, over its stance on Poland and Hungary.
The Fianna Fáil manifesto proposes sanctions for both countries. When asked to justify it, Mr Martin said it had laid down a very clear marker for European values.
“We believe in an independent judiciary and free media and government should not be trying to control them.
“We believe it has been soft on Orban and soft on the stuff going on in Poland. The EU has not been strong enough in defending its values
“The EU is one of the last bastions for free speech, the separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Those are under attack in Europe and there cannot be equivocation about that.
“The EPP has only suspended Orban’s party,” he added.
“That is one of the biggest issues that will face the EU in the next five years in my view.
“There is a clear trend towards more authoritarian governments in the next five years. We can’t tolerate that.”
Mr Martin would not disclose the party’s targets but said it wanted to win at least one seat in each constituency.
He and Ms Chambers said they did not accept that independent candidates Peter Casey in Midlands North West, and Mr Wallace in South, would impact on its candidates.
The fact that the party was running only one female candidate was defended by Mr Martin who said it had also worked hard to increase the number of female candidates in the local elections.
He said that 21 per cent of its candidates were women – 87 in all, compared to 63 in 2014.
The party’s candidates are: Barry Andrews in Dublin, Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte in Midlands North West; and Billy Kelleher and Malcolm Byrne in South.
Mr Andrews said, potentially, a third of the EU parliament would be anti-Europe. He said it could combat that threat by electing pro-EU MEPs.
“The politics of populism needs to be changed wit the politics of consensus,” he said.