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McDonald says she won't ask SF TD to step down as chair of PAC following tweet about IRA attacks

Brian Stanley has apologised for the tweet about IRA attacks on the British Army.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley
Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said she won’t remove her party TD Brian Stanley from position as chairperson of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee over his tweet about two IRA attacks on the British army.

The Laois/Offaly TD sent the tweet on Saturday, the centenary of the Kilmichael ambush in 1920, about the two attacks.

He wrote to his 3,700 followers: “Kilmicheal (sic) (1920) and Narrow Water (1979) the 2 IRA operations that taught the elective of (the) British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.”

In a statement on Sunday, Stanley apologised “for the content of an inappropriate and insensitive tweet that I sent”.

However, there have since been calls for Stanley to step down from his chairmanship of the PAC for a period of time over the matter. 

Addressing the controversy this morning, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that “this was a mistake by Brian Stanley and one that will not be repeated”. 

McDonald confirmed she won’t remove him from his position as chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.

She said:

Brian’s a very effective, a very even handed and a very fair chair of the committee. It is, as people know, a very important committee. The work is essential and he is anxious, and I am anxious, that he continues with that work.

She added that Stanley is “more than fit” to chair the committee and that he is “extremely competent” and “extremely experienced”. 

“He will continue with that work,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader said that Stanley will address the controversy with committee colleagues when they meet tomorrow. 

Social Democrat’s co-leader Catherine Murphy, and a member of the PAC, said it would be difficult to pick up “as business as usual” when the committee meets again this week. 

She said Stanley stepping aside for a time “may well be a resolution to this”. 

Murphy said she did not think that Stanley taking down the tweet and apologising “will be sufficient”.

The role of a TD and as a chair of the PAC is a senior position, and with that role comes responsibility, said Murphy. 

The Kilmichael ambush was an attack carried out by the IRA during the War of Independence in which 17 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary Division were killed.

The Narrow Water ambush took place during the Troubles and saw 18 British soldiers killed by the IRA near Warrenpoint, in 1979.

The attack took place the same day provisionals blew up a fishing boat off the coast of Mullaghmore in Co Sligo, which killed Lord Louis Mountbatten, a second cousin to Queen Elizabeth who served in two world wars.

warrenpoints-youngest-victim Members of the Second Parachute Regiment bearing the flag draped coffin of their colleague, Private Gary Ivan Barnes, at Ipswich. Private Barnes was the youngest victim of the Warrenpoint massacre Source: PA

Backlash

Stanley faced heavy criticism yesterday from politicians both north and south of the Irish border in light of the tweet. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the tweet was “another case, unfortunately, of the mask slipping”.

He added it was a “really insensitive and stupid thing to tweet”. 

“Brian Stanley is a senior Sinn Féin TD, he’s the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, he should know better than this,” Coveney said. 

“Sinn Féin speak publicly and under Dáil record all the time about the need for legacy infrastructure to deal with the past in a sensitive way in Northern Ireland. They talk about reconciliation, yet a senior Sinn Féin person comes out with this bile on social media, which is really about division and hatred,” he said. 

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DUP leader Arlene Foster also responded furiously to the tweet, and signalled her intention to raise it with the Ceann Comhairle. 

She tweeted: “I will be writing to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil about this shameful tweet.

“Although deleted, it is outrageous that someone with such warped views can hold a senior position in the Dáil. SF talk about respect & equality but there’s not much sign of respect for victims.”

Stanley’s tweet received more than 500 likes on the platform and was shared close to 400 times.

With reporting by Press Association

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