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'I stand corrected': Tánaiste apologises after incorrectly claiming Sinn Féin had no Protestant TDs

Violet-Anne Wynne, a Clare TD, said she is a Protestant and “proud to be a representative for Sinn Féin”.

File image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last month.
File image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar last month.
Image: TOM HONAN

LEO VARADKAR HAS apologised for “any offence caused” by his claim that there are no Protestant Sinn Féin TDs after a Clare TD pointed out that she is a Protestant. 

The Tánaiste had said this afternoon that Sinn Féin has a relationship of “mutual hostility” with unionism, and that the party has no Protestant TDs, MLAs or Senators.

Following this, Sinn Féin TD for Clare, Violet-Anne Wynne, said on Twitter that she is a Protestant. Varadkar has since retracted his remark and apologised. 

The Tánaiste was asked about a new advertisement campaign calling for a referendum on Irish unity organised by the Friends of Sinn Féin placed in several major US newspapers today. 

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried half-page ads under the title “A United Ireland – Let the people have their say”.

 The ad campaign was organised by Friends of Sinn Féin, a US-based organisation endorsed by the party, and is supported by a number of Irish-American groups including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish American Unity Conference and the James Connolly Irish-American Labor Coalition.

Speaking to RTÉ radio’s News at One, the Tánaiste said: “I don’t have any objection to Sinn Féin running ads in American newspapers in support of re-unification.

“What I do have a problem with, is that Sinn Féin is an obstacle to Irish unity. They have a relationship with unionism that is one of mutual hostility, which is a big problem, and they’re sectarian. 

“They’re still very anti-British, they have no Protestant TDs, MLAs or Senators,” he said. 

Following this interview, the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald tweeted to say “the religious beliefs or tradition” of TDs was “none of [Leo Varadkar's] business”. 

Sinn Féin TD for Clare, Violet-Anne Wynne, said: “I am a protestant and I am proud to be a representative for Sinn Féin. Changing facts is not the change that people voted for.”

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She called for Varadkar to withdraw his remarks and apologise, saying in a statement that it was “unacceptable” to make “an issue of my religious views”. 

The Tánaiste responded on Twitter to say he “was not aware” of her religion.

“I stand corrected,” he said. 

He further said in a statement: “I did not make any remarks, at all, about Deputy Wynne personally. I was unaware of her religious affiliation and I stand corrected. I fully retract my remark and apologise for any offence caused.”

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