Varadkar withdraws claim that Sinn Féin has no Protestants TDs, MLAs or Senators

Sinn Féin TD Violet-Anne Wynne corrected Tánaiste on Twitter saying she is Protestant

Varadkar withdraws claim that Sinn Féin have no Protestants TDs, MLAs or Senators. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Varadkar withdraws claim that Sinn Féin have no Protestants TDs, MLAs or Senators. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has withdrawn a claim he made that Sinn Féin has no Protestant TDs, MLAs or Senators after one of the party’s Dáil Deputies angrily corrected him.

Violet-Anne Wynne, a Sinn Féin TD for Clare, denounced the Tánaiste’s statement and said she herself was a Protestant.

“I am a Protestant and I am proud to be a Sinn Féin TD,” she said.

Mr Varadkar, in an interview on RTÉ Radio’s News at One, claimed that Sinn Féin was an obstacle to Irish Unity. He claimed the party’s relationship with unionism was one of mutual hostility.

“They are sectarian. They are anti-British. They have no Protestant TDs, MLAs, or Senators. I believe for a united Ireland to be achieved they need to talk about the unity of people just like Nelson Mandela when he spoke about South Africa being a rainbow nation.

“They need to accept that there are 1 million people in Ireland who identify as British… and their flag is orange not green.”

‘Spouting untruths’

Ms Wynne said Mr Varadkar was constantly “spouting untruths and trying to demonise political opponents”.

When Ms Wynne posted a Tweet pointing out that she was Protestant and asking the Tánaiste to withdraw the remark, he responded on Twitter: “I was not aware of that. I stand corrected.”

Ms Wynne is not the only TD from a Protestant background. The party’s TD for Laois Brian Stanley is also understood to have Protestant roots.

Asked for his response to Mr Varadkar’s comments, Mr Stanley said the Tánaiste was being sectarian and said it was none of anybody’s business what religion individual TDs practised.

“Sinn Féin is made up of people from various religions and none,” he said. We are a pluralist party and an anti-sectarian party. For me it’s a personal matter. When people ask me I say I am a Republican,” he said.

In a Tweet posted later in the afternoon, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald stated: The religious beliefs or tradition of any TD (Sinn Féin or otherwise) is none of Leo Varadkar’s business.”