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online trolls Varadkar claims he is being targeted with racist and homophobic abuse by Sinn Fein


Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has claimed that he is being targeted with homophobic and racist abuse by people on social media who are supporters of Sinn Féin.

Mr Varadkar made the claims at a private Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday during a discussion on social media strategy.

The Fine Gael leader claimed that of the replies to his social media posts, 10 per cent of them are homophobic and 10 per cent of them are racist.

He said the accounts posting the abuse could be traced back to the same people who, he claimed, are supporters of Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin has repeatedly denied claims that it orchestrates supporters to abuse politicians online.

Party activists have been repeatedly warned not to send offensive or harassing material to people online in guidelines issued by Sinn Féin headquarters.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said the party needed to counteract online abuse from political opponents, but said he would not be permitting or authorising the party to use anonymous accounts or trolls.

Earlier, MEP Seán Kelly suggested Fine Gael needed its own online activists to counteract “trolls who are constantly criticising everything”. Mr Kelly later clarified that he was not suggesting these people be anonymous. “We need our own supporters to put up the Fine Gael view,” he said.

Mr Varadkar also told the meeting that he was reasonably confident that the rollout of a new Covid-19 vaccine can start in January. He said the wait for European Medicines Agency approval would give Ireland an opportunity to learn from the experience of the UK where regulators have approved the Pfizer vaccine for rollout from next week.

He said it would be logical to begin inoculation with healthcare workers, people in nursing homes, and older people with underlying health conditions. He said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee would be deciding on prioritisation.

He also said it was possible to have a “meaningful impact” by vaccinating those at highest risk before herd immunity is achieved in October or November of next year.

Mr Varadkar said there were a “number of unknowns” with the vaccine, including that it was unclear how long immunity would last for.

He also said that without the full data it would not be possible to know until one or two million people are vaccinated what the very rare side-effects of the vaccine are.

He said there would need to be a single IT system to administer the vaccine which does not currently exist in Ireland.

Mr Varadkar also told the meeting there would need to be a cross-society and cross-party public information campaign to counteract hesitancy among the public about the vaccine. He said the vaccines would not be made compulsory.

TDs and Senators were given a presentation on the party’s performance in the Dáil and Seanad as well as on local and national media.

Parliamentary party chairman Richard Bruton said the party’s ministers needed to do better when it comes to appearing on local radio.

Online Editors