Party members have been forced to apologise for various online gaffes in recent times
THE controversy over Public Accounts Committee chairman Brian Stanley’s now-deleted tweet about two IRA attacks nearly 60 years apart is just the latest in a series of social media storms that Sinn Féin representatives have been caught up in over recent years.
In a tweet quoting the Tánaiste’s tribute to the 14 victims of Bloody Sunday 100 years ago, the party’s social protection spokesman said last month: “While laying a wreath to the Royal Irish Constabulary and Black and Tans today outside Croke Park, Leo Varadkar said he’d better stick his head inside just to be impartial.” Mr Brady later deleted the tweet which was heavily criticised by Fine Gael ministers.
The MLA tweeted in September that the 1983 Maze prison breakout, of which he was a part, was “one of Big Bob’s [Storey] best ops! I had the privilege of the front passenger seat. Well someone had to check we were taking the right route out!!” Mr Kelly was one of 38 prisoners involved in the jailbreak. Amid condemnation and calls to remove him from the North’s Policing Board, he later tweeted his support for the rule of law. The North’s Justice Minister Naomi Long said last month there were insufficient grounds for removing Mr Kelly from the board.
The MLA, ex-MEP and former IRA prisoner was forced to apologise in August after she tweeted that a proposed pension scheme for Troubles victims was “mainly for those who fought Britain’s dirty war”. She later deleted the tweet – after being told to do so by the party hierarchy – before saying she “apologised unreservedly for the hurt and offence caused by my tweet to people who suffered serious harm during the conflict here”.
In March, the MLA and former Stormont minister criticised British prime minister Boris Johnson’s response to the coronavirus crisis, writing on Twitter: “This shire of bastards are using everyone of us in some form of twisted medical experiment. Do you honestly believe the rest of Europe is wrong & this balloon and his ilk are right. If you are not angry it’s time to get angry, we are on the brink of disaster!” Mr O’Dowd was heavily criticised by unionists for the post.
In February, the newly-elected Sinn Féin TD apologised “unreservedly and wholeheartedly” to those offended by a number of old tweets where she used offensive language, questioned the fluoridation of the public water supply and linked Israel to Nazism. The tweets, which were posted between 2012 and 2015, also used words like “b*tch” and “wh*re” to describe other people.
Old Facebook posts from the newly-elected Sinn Féin TD emerged in February showing that she had expressed strong opposition to the HPV and other vaccines. In 2017, the Clare TD criticised the HSE for suggesting there was no scientific evidence that vaccines were unsafe, compared the dangers posed by “ingredients” in vaccinations to where you buy coffee and said compulsory vaccination was “medical tyranny”. Sinn Féin said the comments did not reflect party policy on vaccinations.
The MLA and current Assembly speaker described Northern Ireland as a “putrid little statelet” in a Twitter post in February 2018. Amid strong criticism and condemnation of the remark, Mr Maskey, a former IRA prisoner, later declared that it was a matter of fact that the North had been a “unionist-dominated apartheid state”.
The former West Tyrone MP resigned from parliament in 2018 after he posted a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmills atrocity in which 11 Protestant workmen were lined up by members of the IRA and shot. Ten died with one surviving despite being shot 18 times. Mr McElduff did not face prosecution over the incident and re-entered politics in May 2019 when he won a local authority seat.
The former Sinn Féin senator was suspended from the party for three months in 2018 after she retweeted an offensive message about Portlaoise prison officer Brian Stack. Mr Stack was shot in the neck in 1983 by a member of the IRA and died 18 months later. The original tweet, which Ms Devine later offered her “sincere apologies” for retweeting, referred to the slain prison officer’s son Austin Stack, as the “Fianna Fáil son of a sadist prison officer”.
The senator and former MEP liked a tweet comparing DUP leader Arlene Foster to Donald Trump and labelling her “hateful, racist, bigoted” and “an orange c***”. She later deleted the like and said it was accidental. “This was an accidental like that was undone immediately. I had meant to scroll past the tweet and accidentally hit the like button,” she said. “The tweet was offensive, bigoted and sectarian and is not something that I would ever associate myself with,” Ms Boylan said.
The former Sinn Féin president sparked uproar and worldwide headlines in 2016 when he tweeted: “Watching Django Unchained – A Ballymurphy N*****!” Mr Adams quickly deleted the tweet but it was screengrabbed and widely shared. The now-retired former Louth TD said the use of the word was “ironic” and not intended to cause offence. “The fact is that nationalists in the north, including those from Ballymurphy, were treated in much the same way as African Americans until we stood up for ourselves,” he said. He later admitted he made a mistake and apologised.
The former Sinn Féin MLA was forced to apologise in 2013 after sharing a sexually vulgar tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the birth of their first child. He later apologised. The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member was also forced to apologise to abuse victim Máiría Cahill in 2015 after he attacked her on Twitter over an article she wrote about the links between Sinn Féin and the IRA.
The former Northern Ireland Culture Minister warned herself that she needed to be more “ministerial” on Twitter in 2011 after tweets emerged showing her describing former justice minister Michael McDowell as a “gobshite”.