SINN FÉIN HAS played down a photo of its new member, former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, with the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad which was taken and distributed on constituency leaflets four years ago.
The former Dublin South-East deputy joined Sinn Féin on Saturday after the party’s Ard Comhairle accepted his application.
It is now likely that the grandson of one of the Fianna Fáil founders, Todd Andrews, will run as a Sinn Féin candidate in next year’s local and European elections or at the next general election.
Andrews is a vocal pro-Palestinian activist who forged a working relationship with the Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh on the controversial ‘freedom flotillas’ that sailed to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade in 2008 and 2011.
The photo with al-Assad, who the US and Europe believe was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack on his own people last month, appeared on constituency leaflets distributed in Dublin South-East in 2009 and has reappeared online in recent days. The photo was taken when Andrews visited Syria that year.
Picture used with permission of John Connolly/Cranky Notions
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said in response to the picture: “It’s not a new photo and has been doing the rounds again over the last couple of days.
“The photo was taken when Chris was in Syria lobbying on behalf of the many Palestinian refugees based there.”
Al-Assad and his army have been engaged in a brutal civil war with opposition to his regime for over two years with over 100,000 people thought to have died in the conflict and two million Syrian refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, including one million in the last six months.
Andrews has previously said that the Labour “are pro-Israeli” and that Fine Gael’s foreign affairs policy on Israel is determined by “Israel’s puppet in Ireland Alan Shatter”:
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin said it would not be commenting on remarks Andrews made on a now deleted Twitter account – @brianformerff – last year in which he was heavily critical of Sinn Féin and party president Gerry Adams over his alleged IRA past.
The 49-year-old set up the account anonymously to criticise Fianna Fáil and its leader Micheál Martin.
Andrews’s identity was revealed after the husband of a senior Fianna Fáil party figure – whom Andrews was accused of bullying – used surveillance to catch him sending the tweets from a Rathmines internet cafe.
“We will not be going into the detail of any discussions we had with Chris Andrews,” the Sinn Féin spokesperson added.
Fianna Fáil declined to comment. A party source said Andrews and Sinn Féin are “well matched”.
Andrews did not return calls.