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Sinn Fein TD and PAC chair says he has ‘no apology to make’ over Varadkar tweet

Laois/Offaly TD Brian Stanley says his record on LGBTI issues ‘stands for itself’ after controversial 2017 tweet resurfaces.

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Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley (PA)

Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley (PA)

Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley (PA)

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Brian Stanley, said he has “no apology to make” over a tweet sent about Leo Varadkar in 2017.

Mr Stanley has rejected accusations of homophobia over the tweet he sent when the Tanaiste was elected Fine Gael leader.

It 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.”

The post has resurfaced following a controversy involving another tweet sent by the Sinn Fein TD, celebrating historical IRA attacks on the British Army.

Speaking at the launch of a PAC report on Thursday, Mr Stanley said that his record on campaigning on LGBTI issues “stands for itself”.

He added: “I don’t have any apology to make to anybody. The point I was making was it’s great that we have achieved the right for gay people and for women and ‘yippee to that’.

“But the point I was making was that we still had the missing piece. As a republican, the missing piece for me was to try and advance the rights of workers and to improve their conditions.”

Mr Stanley added: “People in the gay community, including in my own party, and members of this House like Jeremy Buttimer who is on the Government benches, would know my record.

“Leo Varadkar would know my record on it, what way I voted every time.

“Fintan Warfield would know it, a member of my own party. People who are across the House from the lesbian community would know my record.”

Deputy PAC chair and Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said at the launch that she did not believe the tweet was appropriate.

“I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to link someone’s sexual orientation with public policy,” she said.

Mr Stanley, a TD for Laois/Offaly, was also criticised by Fine Gael MEP and LGBTI campaigner Maria Walsh.

She tweeted: “Questioning why Deputy Stanley believed it was right to connect the abilities of a party leader, a @FineGael leadership contest and someone’s sexual orientation together?

“What relevancy does this have in one’s ability to do a job?”

She also questioned Mr Stanley’s explanation and said further clarification was needed.

She wrote: “A response to the ’17 tweet: ‘Yippee meant I celebrate the fact we got so far in terms of the rights for gay people’.

“Confused how the explanation & emphasis is on the word ‘Yippee’ & not the rest of the distasteful language used. It still needs clarification.”

Mr Stanley was defended by his fellow Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane, who suggested the tweet was being twisted by the party’s political opponents.

Mr Cullinane said: “Nobody is going to persuade me that Brian’s tweet was in any way homophobic. I think that would be wrong.

“If political opponents of Sinn Fein are trying to suggest that, and to twist it and use it against Brian in that fashion, I think that is disgraceful and inappropriate.”

Leo Varadkar was talking about representing people who get up early in the morning. It was in that context that he made the comment.David Cullinane, Sinn Fein TD

Mr Cullinane said the the comment in Mr Stanley’s tweet that “U can do what u like in bed” was not a reference to Mr Varadkar’s sexuality, but to one of his campaign slogans.

He said: “Brian was very clear in what he was saying. We were campaigning at the time for a living wage.

“Leo Varadkar was talking about representing people who get up early in the morning. It was in that context that he made the comment.”

Mr Stanley apologised earlier this week for a tweet sent on Saturday celebrating two historical IRA attacks on British forces.

It was posted on the centenary of the Kilmichael ambush in 1920 during Ireland’s War of Independence.

He drew a parallel with that IRA attack and the Provisional IRA bombings at Narrow Water in Co Down that killed 18 paratroopers.

He told the PAC on Wednesday: “I deleted the tweet and I apologise for posting it.

“As an Irish republican and someone in position of political leadership I have to be more aware of my responsibility that I do not say anything that is disrespectful to others.”

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