Politics

Irish MP insists his bizarre ‘homophobic’ tweet about Leo Varadkar was actually a reference to workers’ rights

Patrick Kelleher December 17, 2020
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Brian Stanley apologises to Leo Varadkar over 'homophobic' tweet

Sinn Féin's Brian Stanley refused to apologise to Leo Varadkar (Thierry Monasse/GettyTwitter/@TommyMeskill)

Irish elected representative Brian Stanley, who was accused of making “homophobic” comments about the country’s former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, has apologised and said he finds homophobia “abhorrent”.

Stanley, a Sinn Féin TD, faced significant backlash over a resurfaced tweet about Varadkar, posted on 2 June, 2017, in which he said: “Yippee [for the] Tory. It’s Leo. [You] can do what [you] like in bed but don’t look [for] a pay rise the next morning.”

The message has been widely condemned as homophobic, with queer Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh calling on Stanley to clarify why he was connecting Varadkar’s “sexual orientation and his democratically elected position”.

Stanley took a week off in the face of overwhelming backlash and addressed Ireland’s parliament, Dáil Éireann, on Tuesday evening (15 December).

Reflecting on the tweet, posted in 2017 when Varadkar was elected as leader of Fine Gael, Stanley said: “The impending election as Taoiseach of someone who is gay was rightly highlighted at the time as a sign of the progress that we have made as a country and as a state, and followed on from the marriage equality referendum two years prior.”

“The point that I was trying to make was, ‘That’s great, but let’s also focus on advancing workers’ rights and the rights of people on low income and economic justice, and issues such as a living wage which we don’t have yet in this country.'”

He continued: “I accept that it’s a point that I did not articulate in a very good way and that tweet is open to different interpretations.”

Stanley said he had tried to contact Varadkar personally to apologise but had been unable to reach him.

“Homophobia is abhorrent to me and I absolutely deplore prejudice of any kind, and always have.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley committed to learning from his mistakes

“I realise that many people who have read my tweets, they don’t know me personally, they don’t know my record, they don’t know my stance on issues,” Brian Stanley added.

“But my record is not a defence, nor does it take away from any hurt caused. It only provides an insight into the values that I hold as an activist and as a political representative, and more importantly, as a person.

“As an ally of the LGBT+ community I’m even more responsible and more accountable, and I recognise that.”

Stanley closed out his address by saying that he is committed to “learning from these mistakes” and he will work harder in the future to “promote the causes of equality, inclusion, understanding and reconciliation”.

The Sinn Féin TD faced further backlash earlier this month when he attempted to justify his comments about Varadkar.

He told the Irish Independent the tweet was meant to imply that it was “great” that rights had been achieved for gay people.

“What I mean in that tweet was we were trying to push legislation and measures regarding workers rights and minimum wage and living wage.

“The point I was making was it’s great that we have achieved the rights for gay people and for women and yippie for that. But… the missing piece for me was to try and advance the rights of workers and to improve their conditions.”

Speaking at a private Fine Gael parliamentary party on 2 December, Varadkar, who is mixed race, said that 10 per cent of the replies to his tweets are homophobic, while 10 per cent are racist.

He also claimed that the abuse was coming from Sinn Féin supporters, however, the party has strenuously denied accusations that it orchestrates campaigns against people online.

Related topics: Brian Stanley, Leo Varadkar

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