Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Entirely inappropriate' - anger as Fine Gael Youth leader attends US right-wing conference

Killian Foley-Walsh
Killian Foley-Walsh
Chloe Kennedy
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

The president of Fine Gael's youth wing has been criticised for attending a right-wing conservative youth conference in the US last week.

Young Fine Gael (YFG) president Killian Foley-Walsh, a member of Fine Gael's ruling national executive, attended the Young America's Foundation (YAF) conference in Washington DC last week along with YFG's social media officer Chloe Kennedy.

Their attendance at the YAF conference has prompted criticism from a Fine Gael TD and caused disquiet within YFG, the party's youth wing whose past members include Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

YAF's mission is to groom future conservative leaders, according to the 'New York Times', which cited far-right White House adviser Stephen Miller among its alumni. Many members are opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

This year's conference was addressed by US vice-­president Mike Pence and a number of conservative politicians, including former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Mr Foley-Walsh, who said he was "strongly opposed" to abortion, posted a picture of himself with Mr Walker who has backed strict anti-abortion laws and has compared abortion to taking a baby home and killing it.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who is also a member of YFG, said: "I don't understand how any young person would want to align themselves with the present Republican administration - this certainly doesn't represent the progressive Young Fine Gael members I know."

Mr Foley-Walsh and Ms Kennedy said they attended the conference in a personal capacity and the trip was funded by themselves and the Edmund Burke Foundation, a conservative educational charity that advocates for market-based politics.

"I am in favour of same sex marriage and I am strongly opposed to abortion," said Mr Foley-Walsh. "Fine Gael is a broad church and welcomes social conservatives as well as social liberals."

He said he did not support or endorse the views of Mr Miller or those of Robert Spencer, a previous speaker at YAF, who runs a website, Jihad Watch, and has written a book 'Confessions of an Islamophobe'.

Fine Gael declined to comment. A Young Fine Gael source said their attendance did not represent the views of YFG or its membership "in any way".

"The values of YAF are in complete contradiction to those of YFG and of the inclusive society YFG envisions. The overwhelming majority of YFG members do not share the regressive positions of YAF. YFG through the democratic decisions of its members supports same sex marriage, the regulation of termination of pregnancy bill 2018, the separation of religion and State and inclusive sexual education."

Another Fine Gael source said it was "entirely inappropriate" for a YFG president to attend such an event.

Irish Independent

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