Two separate attempts to smear and damage Sinn Féin TDs with embarrassing old social media posts have followed supposedly controversial statements about the Provisional IRA.
Fine Gael and other reactionary elements are engaged in an orchestrated campaign against two Sinn Féin TDs, Laois TD Brian Stanley (top right) and Tipperary TD Martin Browne (bottom left), and two senior Sinn Féin figures have issued their own condemnations.
Amid an anti-republican witch-hunt within the party, a growing number of Sinn Féin members have called for an end to party representatives making apologetic comments for the Provisional IRA.
The controversy began last week when Laois TD Brian Stanley tweeted linking the IRA’s Kilmichael Ambush in County Cork during the War of Independence, in which 17 British soldiers were killed, with the Narrow Water Ambush by the (Provisional) IRA at Warrenpoint, in County Down in 1979, in which 18 British soldiers were killed.
After an angry response by Fine Gael, unionists and the Dublin media, Mr Stanley said last week his “tweet fell below the standards, not just of what we expect from each other, but also what I expect from myself as a member of the Dáil”. He added: “And for that I am genuinely sorry”.
But the controversy evolved bizarrely when it emerged, from an unknown source, that a 2017 tweet he sent appeared to comment on the sexuality of Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Mr Stanley insisted he had “no apology to make” over the tweet, which was made in the context of international media attention on Varadkar becoming Ireland’s first gay Taoiseach.
Amid demands for apologies for the Provisional IRA’s entire armed campaign, a strange crusade has continued against republicans and republicanism within Sinn Féin. So far there has been little or no pushback from the party leadership, and some senior SF figures have shamefully joined in the reactionary attacks, confusing and dismaying the party grassroots.
Tipperary TD Martin Brown said the party should not apologise for their core beliefs.
“Apologies in my own personal view, they should stop,” Mr Browne said in a local radio interview on Wednesday.
“It is my core belief that we have been occupied for 800 years in this country and at all stages down through our history there has been conflict.”
Speaking to Tipp FM, Mr Browne said that people needed to learn their history and defended Mr Stanley’s remarks.
“It’s history and people need to learn their history. Brian apologised, not for the context of the text but the way people took it up,” he said. He noted that the acts of war were part of a conflict against an occupying force.
“We had an occupied country – a foreign force there,” he said. In regard to the ambush operations, Mr Browne pointed out that in a conflict situation “you strike before they strike you”.
He said he believed that Mr Stanley had the support of the party over the controversial tweets and that he would continue as party chair.
But Mr Browne’s remarks led to a further bout of outrage from the same sources. On Thursday, the public petitions committee of the Dublin parliament, which he chairs, was forced to adjourn its first official meeting after grandstanding on the issue by Fine Gael TDs.
A smear campaign to embarrass the Tipp TD then also emerged. Once again, an unidentified source unearthed “controversial” old Facebook posts, this time in regard to 9/11 conspiracy theories.
“These posts do not reflect my views. I apologise for these posts and I should not have posted them,” Mr Browne stated.
However, both he and Mr Stanley have now been condemned by prominent Sinn Féin spokespersons, Dublin Mid West TD Eoin Ó Broin (pictured, top left) and his partner, Senator Lynn Boylan (bottom right).
Ms Boylan said it was “inexcusable” that Mr Browne had tweeted anything in regard to 9/11. “I don’t condone his posts. I don’t think anyone would condone them,” she said.
And Ó Broin was unforgiving of his Laois colleague. He said the Public Accounts Committee chairman was “guilty of colossal errors of judgement” and said he was “accused of some pretty appalling things”.
However, he stopped short of urging the Public Accounts Committee chairman to quit, describing Stanley as a “fine politician and a good public representative”.
Mr Stanley is due to make a personal statement on the matter to the Dublin parliament on Tuesday, December 15.