Sinn Féin defends decision to attend Maduro inauguration

Re-election of Venezuelan president denounced as illegitimate at home and abroad

Sinn Féin has defended a decision to send two senior party members to the inauguration of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

The party has been criticised over the presence of MLA Conor Murphy and its general secretary Dawn Doyle at the event.

Mr Maduro's re-election has been denounced as illegitimate both domestically and abroad. He replaced Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013 and won a six-year term last year despite hyperinflation, chronic food shortages and a severe economic contraction hitting the country. He blames an "economic war" led by the US and local opposition adversaries for the country's woes.

The vast majority of the opposition boycotted last year's vote on the grounds that it was rigged in favor of Mr Maduro, noting a host of irregularities, including Socialist Party activists offering monetary payments to voters.


However, he continues to enjoy support from the armed forces, leaving him with few serious challenges at home despite the international outcry.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesman, said Sinn Féin's presence at the inauguration was "just another example" of why the party is "unfit for government".

‘Stifled dissent’

He said that since Mr Maduro came to power in 2013 there had been an increase in human rights violations.

“Mr Maduro has stifled dissent, targeted the opposition and has presided over the collapse of the economy which has led to sky-rocketing inflation and a shortage of food and medicines,” he said.

“Venezuelans are leaving the country in their thousands and yet Sinn Féin continues to support the Maduro regime and saw fit to send representatives to his inauguration.”

He added: “In the aftermath of the election the European Council issued a statement stating that the ‘presidential and regional polls went ahead without national agreement on an electoral calendar and without complying with the minimum international standards for a credible process, not respecting political pluralism, democracy, transparency and rule of law’.”

However, Mr Murphy defended his decision to travel, stating that Mr Maduro had been “democratically elected”.

"This is a particularly difficult and challenging period for the citizens of Venezuela, " he said. "We will use our presence in Venezuela to express our continuing solidarity to the people supporting their legitimate demands to build a just and equal society free from foreign intervention."

The country’s pro-government supreme court, which has largely supplanted the opposition-run congress, swore him in following a welcome with a symphony orchestra and cheering supporters waving miniature yellow, blue and red Venezuelan flags.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times