McDonald backs Sinn Féin TD at centre of homophobia controversy as members resign

Mary Lou McDonald defended Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley following intense scrutiny over a resurfaced tweet which referenced Leo Varadkar's sexuality.

Sinn Fein homophobia

Speaking on Claire Byrne Live this morning, December 7, Mary Lou McDonald said that Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley would not be stood down as the chair of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following accusations of homophobia and racism.

Stanley has been relinquished of his duties for one week with McDonald saying he was “not used to being in the eye of the storm.”

McDonald told Claire Byrne that she was “concerned for his welfare. I wanted him to have some breathing space.”

Two tweets posted by Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley have been met with strong criticism both within the party and in wider media over alleged homophobia and racism. In a tweet sent last weekend, he said that the Kilmichael ambush in 1920 and the Narrow Water attack on British soldiers by the Provisional IRA “taught the elite of [the] British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland.” He added: “Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.”

Sinn Féin TD for Laois–Offaly Brian Stanley

In a 2017 post following the appointment of Leo Varakar as leader of Fine Gael, Stanley said:

“Yippie 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what you like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise in the morning.”

Stanley claims that the meaning of the post has since been “twisted” and that the “yippie” referred to celebrating what has been achieved for LGBTQ+ rights saying that he campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights “before it was popular.”

Following the controversy, he has deleted his Twitter account.

Mary Lou McDonald said that despite calls for Stanley to stand down as chair of the PAC, he would not be doing so.

“He apologised and he went then to a committee correctly and made a statement, and so on. So I don’t think that there has been any, any desire to drag this out at all, and on the issue of accountability, the recent events around [the] leaking of confidential documents via the Taoiseach or the appointment of Seamus Woulfe, I don’t think there is an equivalence between those things and a tweet.

“Absolutely he should [stay on] and absolutely he is.

“The committee discharges a very important function. Brian Stanley is a very, very low key, thorough, and thoughtful kind of person. He doesn’t court controversy or attention.

“He has made mistakes, of that there is no doubt, and he has accepted that, and he will address those matters in the Dáil, but he is more than fit to chair the committee, he has all of the attributes and the ability for steadfast, analytical approach.”

McDonald also sided with Stanley on the nature of his tweet regarding Varadkar saying it had been taken out of context.

“When I saw the tweet initially myself, I thought ‘What in heaven’s name is that?’ I didn’t understand, I couldn’t fathom for the life of me why it had been issued.

“If you opened it today, of course, it would be open to a homophobic construction. However, on the day that the tweet was issued, it was the day that Ireland for the first time had our first openly gay taoiseach, a hugely positive thing in my view, and for lots of others.

“On the one hand, we’re celebrating the fact that Ireland has come some distance and that any person irrespective of sexual orientation can achieve the highest office which is good, but the point that Brian, I think, was making is that the other politics, the Tory politics, particularly around people’s incomes, was something that had not been met.”

Over the weekend, a number of Sinn Féin members resigned from the party and its youth organisation due to the controversy.

Former Sinn Féin member Iósaf Ó Muirí claimed that Sinn Féin “has failed to take robust action on racism, homophobia and bigotry”.

Christine O’Mahony resigned from her role as the chairperson of Ógra Sinn Féin in UCD writing on Twitter: “As a black and bisexual woman, I can’t stay silent on these issues. My principles before party.”

The LGBTQ+ officer of Ógra Sinn Féin, Seán Pender, also resigned following the alleged homophobia saying: “With the recent controversy surrounding Brian Stanley I’ve decided to step down”. He said it’s not something he wanted to do but “I feel it’s the best decision.”

O’Mahony told the Irish Examiner that she had been at home when a local party officer called to her front door and told her to delete tweets that were critical of the party.

O’Mahony and Pender spoke on Morning Ireland about their resignations to which McDonald responded saying the reaction has been “absolutely understandable” but there was no censorship within the party.

“I heard Christine and Seán on the programme this morning, two fine and very articulate young people, and they’re upset and I understand why.

“Anybody can criticise Sinn Féin, I’m often critical of the party myself, and there is nobody trying to censor anybody.

“Somebody from Christine’s Cumann called to her home, I wouldn’t think twice about knocking on a Cumann member’s door, it wouldn’t occur to me that it was a problem. These Cumann structures are very, very local, everybody knows everybody, very often people live in the same parish, in close proximity to each other. Obviously, in this case, exception was taken to somebody knocking on the door but I can’t allow you to create an entirely false perception that some anonymous or unknown figure landed on anyone’s door.

“I would have a huge issue with anybody going to anybody’s door and instructing anybody that they can’t be critical of anything they want, people have the right to free speech, the right to criticise Sinn Féin.

“My understanding is that the knock at the door was to say: ‘Obviously, there is upset here, there is a problem here, there are internal mechanisms and methods through which this can be addressed’. That’s all.

“In a time of 24-hour media cycles and access to so many social media platforms, it’s impossible to stop or to censor people and a pointless, stupid waste of time to attempt to do so, quite frankly.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews has apologised for liking tweets which Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) say are “transphobic.”

Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews

Mr Andrews liked a tweet in February, which read: “Imagine if your daughter sacrificed her whole youth to get to the Olympics to win a gold medal and then this guy grows his hair long, says he’s a woman, and shows up and mops the floor with her.”

The tweet quoted a post about New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who won two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.

Mr Andrews also liked a tweet, which said: “Definitely should have a transgender category. You could obliterate women from sport if this becomes more frequent.”

TENI chair Sara R Phillips said: “I would be very disappointed that he has liked and shared those tweets, but Chris has been supportive of trans rights in the past. I would hope to at some point get some context from him and discuss with him as to why he feels he should be liking and sharing those tweets.

“I think there are conversations that are continually ongoing in relation to trans people’s inclusion in sport, it is really imperative that they have access to sport in the same way everyone else does.”

Mr Andrews said: “I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of trans rights. I have dedicated my career to the defence of human rights at home and abroad. That includes LGBTQ+ rights. I sincerely apologise for liking these tweets.

“There is a lot of misinformation about transgender participation in sports, and it needs to be addressed head-on. I have since learned a lot about transgender participation in sports, and the tenuous claims of unfair advantage which are not backed up in the most recent academic research.

“To that end, I have reached out to Sara and the Transgender Equality Network to discuss with me to see how we can help advance transgender rights in sports.”

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