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Sparks fly as FG members question Sinn Féin TD's chairmanship of Dáil Committee after IRA comments

Martin Browne is chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Public Petitions

Sinn Féin TD for Tipperary Martin Browne.
Sinn Féin TD for Tipperary Martin Browne.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

FINE GAEL TDS have questioned Sinn Fein’s Martin Browne TD’s chairmanship of a Dáil Committee following comments he made on radio about the IRA.

Browne is chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Public Petitions, which met today to discuss its work programme, but Fine Gael members Brendan Griffin TD and Eoghan Murphy TD both called on the Browne clarify statements he made on Tipp FM yesterday.

Speaking on the station, the Tipperary TD said that he believes the Provisional IRA members who carried out the Narrow Water attack on British troops in 1979 should be treated the same as War of Indepdence IRA members such as Seán Treacy and Dan Breen. 

Speaking about the controversy over Brian Stanley TD, Browne said that Stanley apologised for his tweet about Narrow Water and he accepted that but that his own personal view was that “apologies should stop” and that “people need to learn their history”. 

“It is my core belief that we have been occupied for 800 years in this country and that at all stages down throughout our history there has been conflict,” he told the programme.

The Oireachtas Committee on Public Petitions receives petitions from members of the public and met today for the first time today as part of the new Dáil. 

After Browne’s introductory remarks, Griffin said the Sinn Féin TD’s remarks on radio had “caused an awful lot of hurt and upset” and he asked that he explain them.  

“I think it’s critically important that people would have confidence in the chairman of the committee and quite frankly, your comments, I believe, may have undermined that level of confidence. So I’m now offering you an opportunity to please explain your comments,” he said. 

In response, Browne urged members to listen back to the interview and repeatedly asked that the meeting go into private session as scheduled to discuss the work of the committee.

He also objected to the stated concerns of the Fine Gael deputies not being raised in advance of the meeting. 

Murphy said that going to private session “feels like censorship”.

Murphy acknowledged that the concerns weren’t raised in advance but said that the work of the committee could not continue because “such a seri0us question hangs over” its work. 

“For this committee to continue into our public or private, I believe those comments need to be clarified because they were publicly made, they were made very very recently,” Murphy said. 

This isn’t something from the past which someone has dug back up. This is something that has been made by yourself yesterday on a public forum. If you can’t clarify them now in public chair, I don’t see how the meeting can continue.

eoghan murph Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy.

The deputies in the meeting then voted against going into private session, with the three Sinn Féin representatives voting in favour and the others opposed. 

This vote meant that the agenda of the committee could not proceed. Instead, it was agreed to adjourn the meeting to allow Browne prepare a statement about his comments.

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Following the conclusion of the meeting, Browne released a statement saying that “the behaviour of Fine Gael at today’s meeting of the Petitions Committee was very disappointing. ”

They used a media interview I carried out on TippFM earlier this week to disrupt the meeting. For the record – in the interview I made it very clear that I agree with Brian Stanley’s decision to apologise and I fully support him making a statement to the Dail next week. During the interview I also talked in a wider way about the conflict and about the past.

“I said that there are conflicting narratives about the past and we shouldn’t paint one view as worse than the other. I said it is not about apologising or justifying – it was about moving beyond apologies to reconciliation.

“I called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation process so that everyone can get around the table and discuss what happened and the way forward, because the reality is that every time the past is discussed there will be different views. It is our job to build a better future and that is what I intend to be part of.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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