Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley to step away from politics for week

Laois-Offaly TD makes request to give personal statement to Dáil

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has taken the highly unusual step of asking Laois-Offaly TD Brian Stanley to take a week off amid escalating political controversy over his social media activities.

Ms McDonald also said Mr Stanley has written to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl requesting time to make a personal statement to the Dáil on December 15th.

Less than 24 hours after apologising for a tweet that praised IRA attacks on British soldiers, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman was forced to defend himself on Thursday against alleged homophobia in a tweet posted on the day Leo Varadkar became Fine Gael leader in 2017.

In addition to the tweets, Mr Stanley seemed to infer during an interview with a local radio station in March that he would not eat Chinese chicken over his concerns about the spread of coronavirus. In the face of continuing criticism, his Twitter and Facebook accounts were deleted on Thursday evening.


Political crisis

Ms McDonald intervened in the escalating row by meeting Mr Stanley and then asking him to step away from all political activity for a week.

The intervention will be seen as a move to prevent the controversy surrounding Mr Stanley becoming a full-blown political crisis for the party. Ms McDonald’s brief statement has placed fresh doubt on whether Mr Stanley can continue as chair of the PAC, the watchdog for public spending.

“At my request, Mr Stanley will take next week to be with his family, for whom this period of public controversy has proven very difficult,” said Ms McDonald.

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the credibility of the PAC had been thrown into question by the social media activity of its chairman.


The Taoiseach said Mr Stanley needed to reflect on the issues that have arisen and claimed his tweet about Mr Varadkar had a homophobic inference and had exacerbated the situation.

It came as Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe implied that, by deleting his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Mr Stanley might have something to hide.

“It’s not enough what Brian Stanley said and his tweet of a number of years ago where he linked someone’s sexuality to the job they do is just utterly unacceptable,” Mr Donohoe said.

The tweets prompted some negative reaction and criticism within the party. Seán Pender, a party LGBT officer, said he had resigned from Sinn Féin arising from the recent controversy surrounding Mr Stanley.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times