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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
War of Words

Varadkar accuses Mary Lou McDonald of justifying Sinn Féin 'intimidation' after young activist leaves party

The activist resigned after claiming she was told to delete posts critical of TD Brian Stanley.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has accused Mary Lou McDonald of justifying “internal party intimidation” after the Sinn Féin leader played down an incident which caused a young activist to resign from the party last week.

The Irish Examiner first reported at the weekend that Christine O’Mahoney left Sinn Féin after claiming another member called to her house about posts she made criticising TD Brian Stanley.

The Laois-Offaly TD apologised last week over a tweet about two IRA attacks on the British army, but was later criticised for a post which followed Varadkar’s election as leader of Fine Gael.

That post read: “Yippee 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what u like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise the next morning.”

O’Mahoney, a member of UCD Ógra Sinn Féin, had hit out at Stanley about the tweet referencing Varadkar’s sexuality.

It is alleged that she was ordered to delete the online posts and warned not to comment on issues relating to Sinn Féin in public.

Asked about the allegations on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio this morning, McDonald said that “nobody [was] trying to censor anybody” and that she would have an issue if a party activist attempted to stop someone criticising the party.

But the Sinn Féin leader suggested that the incident was instead an attempt to communicate that some in the party were unhappy with what O’Mahoney had posted.

“My understanding is that the knock to the door was to say obviously there is upset here, there is a problem here,” McDonald said.

“There are internal mechanisms through which this can be addressed, that is all.”

She also claimed that the individual who called to O’Mahoney’s house was “a local person” known to all of the members in the former activist’s local group.

“I wouldn’t think twice about knocking on a cumann member’s door,” McDonald said.

“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 unknown figure landed on anyone’s door.”

However, Varadkar subsequently criticised McDonald for the interview and her response to the controversies.

He tweeted:

I have made no public comment on the Brian Stanley tweets but listening to Mary Lou McDonald this morning equivocating & justifying glorification of violence, latent homophobia & internal party intimidation is truly nauseating. This is not the kind of change Ireland needs, ever.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin also described the allegations that one activist called to the house of another as “heavy handed” and “intimidating”.

“It represents the cult of control within Sinn Féin… pressure is put on individuals in the party to conform at all costs,” he said.

Martin also called on McDonald to officially condemn two attacks the Narrow Water and Warrenpoint attacks in 1979, which Stanley appeared to celebrate in his social media post.  

Stanley’s social media accounts were deactivated after he insisted that he had nothing to apologise for regarding the tweet he sent about Varadkar.

He is set to make a statement to the Dáil next Tuesday about his social media posts, as well as comments he made about Chinese food and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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