FF kick off European election campaign by claiming Sinn Féin is 'soft on Russia'
FIANNA Fáil has kicked off its campaign for the European elections by claiming Sinn Féin is “soft on Russia”.
Party leader Micheál Martin has set a target of having at least one representative from each of the three constituencies in the next European Parliament.
Launching their manifesto today, he said populist candidates need to be called out at a time when Ireland needs Europe more than ever.
He said Fianna Fáil would be "unapologetic" in its support for the European Union and warned this country "can’t just stand on the side-lines" as the future of Europe is debated.
Mr Martin claimed Sinn Féin has been "fermenting" anti-EU sentiment and had not adequately criticised Russian efforts to undermine the union.
Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan recently said the EU was "overly confrontational" towards Russia.
Mr Martin also hit out at Fine Gael for being "soft" on Hungary’s Fidesz party which is led by Victor Orban.
Fidesz has been suspended but not expelled from the European People’s Party (EPP) of which Fine Gael is also a member amid concerns over its increasingly radical politics and nationalist rhetoric.
Among the proposals in Fianna Fáil’s manifesto is a rule to link EU funding to upholding the rule of law in each Member State.
It states that there are "worrying developments including the erosion of judicial independence and the undermining of a free media in Hungary and Poland".
Fianna Fáil has only one outgoing MEP, although Brian Crowley was semi-detached from the party over the past five years.
In Ireland South they are running Billy Kelleher and Malcolm Byrne.
A similar two candidate strategy is operating in the Midlands-North West where Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte are on the ticket. The lone candidate in Dublin is Barry Andrews.
Mr Martin denied that the presence of just one woman on the ticket was a sign that the party has an issue attracting female candidates.
Just 21pc of their candidates in the local elections are women.
Acknowledging that three of the European hopefuls are sitting TDs, Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil would fight by-elections later in the year if necessary.
Among manifesto promises are efforts to regulate technology companies and protect children from online pornography and gambling.
The party also wants to establish an EU-wide markets for mortgages and insurance.
On Brexit, the party says the UK should be given "time and space" to move forward with the Withdrawal Agreement.