Split in Young Fine Gael after president attends right-wing US conference

Group says picture painted of ‘conservative backward YFG’

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a “Make America Great Again” campaign rally with US President Donald Trump in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 1st. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a “Make America Great Again” campaign rally with US President Donald Trump in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 1st. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty.

 

Six members of the Young Fine Gael national executive have demanded a “full explanation” from the group’s president after he attended a conference organised by a right-wing conservative youth group in the US.

A split in the executive has emerged with the group of six stating that Young Fine Gael president Killian Foley-Walsh and the group’s social media officer Chloe Kennedy did not inform them about the trip.

In a statement placed on an unofficial Young Fine Gael Facebook page, the group said the trip “requires a full explanation.”

The two attended the National Conservative Student Conference in the US last week, where speakers included the US vice president Mike Pence. The trip has been criticised by Fine Gael TDs and an MEP.

“We are clear that at no point was the national executive informed of this event, that the two members of the national executive attending were not in any way representing YFG or the views of its membership,” the six say.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Young America’s Foundation, who hosted the conference, said that “the intolerance of the left clearly knows no borders” in response to the criticism of the visit.

The six members of the Young Fine Gael executive said however that “YAF comments on their verified Twitter in relation to women, the LGBTI community, Muslims and other sectors of society are wholly unacceptable in today’s world.

“We are deeply concerned that the Edmund Burke Institute was involved in this trip particularly in light of recent interactions between the institute and members of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.”

The group says that “a picture has been painted of a conservative backward YFG in recent days, that is not the YFG we see. We see a YFG committed to the ideals of equality of opportunity and a fair and just society.

“At a time when the extreme right is on the rise it is more important than ever that the centre holds. We will fight to hold that center ground with everything we have for the remainder of our term.”

The statement is endorsed by vice president Genevieve O’Mahony, director of membership and engagement Conor McGowen, director of campaigns and recruitment Daniel Lynch, Leinster regional organiser Mourad Mejdi, Munster regional organiser Ian Hutchinson and north-west regional organiser Sinéad Bolger.