Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley says he will apologise to Leo Varadkar over remarks

Public Accounts Committee head says he is ‘committed to learning’ from his mistakes

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley has said he will apologise directly to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar over a controversial tweet sent on the day the Fine Gael leader was appointed.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Stanley, the head of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said he was “committed to learning” from his mistakes, and stressed that “homophobia is abhorrent to me”.

He said he had attempted to contact Mr Varadkar to apologise directly and would do so again. A spokesman for the Tánaiste said he was open to taking the call if it can be arranged.

“The Tánaiste acknowledges the apology given by Deputy Stanley to the victims of IRA violence and their families who were offended by the deputy’s statement. The Tánaiste did not seek an apology, but he does accept it fully,” the spokesman said.


“He and other members would, however, have liked an opportunity to ask questions or make a statement in the chamber and he is disappointed that no such opportunity was forthcoming.”

Mr Stanley took a week away from politics on the orders of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. He also deleted his social media accounts following criticisms of two separate messages.

The first tweet that caused controversy was written on November 28th in which Mr Stanley referenced the Kilmichael ambush in 1920 and the Narrow Water massacre in Warrenpoint, Co Down, in 1979, claiming they were “the two IRA operations that taught the elite of [the] British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners”.

Alleged homophobia

Less than 24 hours after apologising for that tweet, Mr Stanley was forced to defend himself against alleged homophobia in a tweet posted on the day Mr Varadkar became Fine Gael leader in 2017.

In that message Mr Stanley wrote “yippee 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what u like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise the next morning”.

Regarding the Kilmichael tweet, Mr Stanley said in the Dáil that it was insensitive and caused upset and anger “and for that I am truly sorry”.

In his statement, Mr Stanley said: “We need to be able to talk about the past in a way that doesn’t cause division, deepen division. We must be sensitive in how we talk about the past and be respectful of the views that others may hold about the past that may be different.”

With reference to his tweet about Mr Varadkar in 2017, he said “the point I was trying to make was that’s great” that someone who was gay was elected “but let’s also focus on workers’ rights and rights of people on low income and economic justice,” he said.

“I accept that it was a point I did not articulate in a very good way and that the tweet was open to different interpretations.

“Homophobia is abhorrent to me,” he added.

It is understood the Government wanted the opportunity for itself and other parties to make statements after Mr Stanley’s speech and that the Ceann Comhairle was asked to facilitate this. However, the party whips told that there is no capacity for doing so under the Dáil’s standing orders.

‘The War of Independence’

In a speech which Mr Varadkar had planned to deliver in the Dáil, but did not as the rules around personal statements do not provide for debate afterwards, he wrote that there is a “profound difference” between the War of Independence and the Provisional IRA’s campaign.

“The War of Independence had democratic legitimacy. The IRA of one hundred years ago answered to a civilian government and a democratically elected Dáil presided over first by Cathal Brugha, then Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith.

“The violent campaign of the Provisional IRA did not command widespread public support, North or South, and its political wing was rejected again and again at the ballot box.”

Meanwhile, a meeting of the Oireachtas public petitions committee will not go ahead on Thursday after the chairman, Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne, was taken ill. It is understood he was in hospital but is at home resting and will not be in the Dáil this week. Members of the committee wanted him to make a statement on his recent comments on Tipp FM when said that apologies “should stop” when asked about IRA killings during the Troubles and Sinn Féin’s approach to their remembrance.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times