SF TD apologises for comparing indoor dining Bill with US segregation

Rose Conway-Walsh referenced Rosa Parks when debating Covid-19 vaccination pass

Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh has apologised for making reference to segregation in the southern United States in the 1950s when she criticised legislation that differentiates between the vaccinated and unvaccinated for indoor hospitality.

Ms Conway-Walsh made reference on Wednesday to the woman whose action helped initiate the civil rights movement in the US when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.

She was arrested when she refused and her action prompted a bus boycott in the southern US and the development of the civil rights movement under the leadership of Dr Martin Luther King.

The Mayo TD had condemned the Health Amendment Bill which restricts indoor dining in restaurants and bars to those who are fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 and to certain children and staff.


Ms Conway-Walsh condemned the legislation as “completely unworkable and unjust” and said “I don’t care how comfortable the vaccinated Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party members are when they take their seats inside in the restaurants. We cannot segregate society like this.”

‘Discriminated against’

She said that one Government speaker stated that “well it’s not too much for me to show my pass at the door and I’ll go in and get my seat”.

"It made me think of Rosa Parks because of the segregation that is being done here.

“To say that people are being treated differently but that they are not being discriminated against is just plain wrong.”

Ms Conway-Walsh apologised for her comment on Twitter. She said “yesterday when speaking in the Dáil I made a reference to Rosa Parks that I regret, when attempting to make a wider point about segregating people.

“The two situations are in no way comparable and would not want to ever imply that they are. I apologise.”

Earlier in the week Independent TD Mattie McGrath was condemned by the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum for comparing the Nazi era when Jewish people were forced to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothing with the announcement that the Digital Green Certificate for international travel could be used as evidence of vaccination.

He also spoke of it as “medical apartheid”.

Later the Tipperary TD spoke of deaths in nursing homes during the pandemic as “crimes against humanity”.

“I am not blaming the front-line staff. I am blaming the bad management and the fact that PPE could not be got for nursing homes.

“Oxygen that was en-route to nursing homes was diverted away from them. If someone does not go to the Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity for that, I will give up. What happened is a shocking indictment.”

Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe criticised his remarks and said there were “no war crimes committed during the pandemic”.

The Dublin North West TD criticised the rules of the Dáil when he said “we can’t accuse each other of lying but we can accuse each other of war crimes”.

Newly elected Labour TD Ivana Bacik expressed her concern “about extreme language about hyperbole, about using terms like apartheid and Nazism.

“These are terms that are utterly inappropriate when we’re speaking about a balance of risk as we move to a safe reopening.”

She said “my grandfather was imprisoned by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia during World War II. For our family fascism was something that was a real threat, a real issue in our lives and not a word any of us should use lightly in this country or anywhere else.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times