Sinn Féin sees gay and mixed race opponents as ‘fair game’ - Varadkar

Tánaiste accuses McDonald of trying to play down controversy over Brian Stanley tweets

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has alleged that Sinn Féin sees gay and mixed race people and young women as "fair game" for criticism once they are not members of the party.

Asked during an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Wednesday about controversy over Twitter posts by Brian Stanley TD, one of which related to the Fine Gael leader, Mr Varadkar said he "has a problem" with how Sinn Féin conducts itself on some issues.

“In the way they’re dealing with this, they do send out a message that if you’re a Sinn Féin supporter and you’re gay, or you’re a young woman, or you’re mixed race, you’ll be celebrated,” he said.

“But if you’re an opponent of Sinn Féin, and you’re gay or mixed race or you’re a young woman, that’s fair game. And you see that in the way they conduct themselves, and I have a problem with that.”


Mr Stanley has faced criticism in recent days for two tweets, one of which dates from 2017 and has been described as having homophobic overtones - an allegation denied by Sinn Féin.

The party has been asked for a comment on Mr Varadkar’s interview but finance spokesman Pearse Doherty earlier defended Mr Stanley, who he said would “clarify his position” in an address to the Dail next Tuesday.

“He is not what people have been claiming, in relation to suggestions that his comments were racist or homophobic,” Mr Doherty told Morning Ireland.

Mr Varadkar said he was disappointed at how Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tried to play “down” the controversy over the tweet. In a radio interview earlier this week, Ms McDonald said the since deleted tweet if opened today “would be open to a homophobic construction” but that it had been taken out of context.

‘Wrong message’

He said he understood “the world we live in” but believed the fact that Ms McDonald “has kind of tried to explain all this stuff away, play it down, sends out the wrong message”.

“People can say things from time to time that are homophobic, or racist, or misogynistic. It doesn’t mean that they in themselves are necessarily homophobic, or racist, or misogynistic,” he said.

“What does matter is how they respond to it, and if it is pointed out to them, how do they engage. And that is why I was very disappointed by the response from Sinn Féin.”

Christine O’Mahony resigned as chair of Ógra Sinn Féin UCD and its Meath branch last week. She had criticised Mr Stanley’s tweet, which led to a visit to her house by a local party member, who was also a neighbour.

Mr Stanley also deleted and apologised for a controversial tweet which referenced incidents from the War of Independence and the Troubles. The Laois-Offaly TD tweeted in reference to the Kilmichael Ambush in 1920 and the Narrow Water Massacre in Warrenpoint, Co Down in 1979, claiming they were "the 2 IRA operations that taught the elite of d British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners".

Eighteen British soldiers were killed at Warrenpoint by the Provisional IRA in August 1979. A total of 17 British soldiers were killed during the War of Independence incident at Kilmichael, alongside three IRA men.

Public apology

Making a public apology before the Public Account Committee (PAC) last week, Mr Stanley, who chairs that committee, said the controversy had placed it in a "difficult and totally unnecessary position".

“What I was attempting to do was to highlight that following the disastrous decision to partition the country almost 100 years ago in the wake of events such as Kilmichael that we still had conflict that went on for a long time. A lot of suffering took place.

“I deleted the tweet and I apologise for posting it. As we work to advance reconciliation on our island we need to be able to talk about the past in a way that is honest to each other, to our beliefs, and in a way that does not deepen division or cause hurt.

“As an Irish republican and as someone in a position of political leadership I have to be more aware of my responsibility to ensure that I do not do anything that is disrespectful to others.”

Ms McDonald said she would not be asking Mr Stanley to step down as PAC chair as a result of the controversy.