Wednesday 18 September 2019

MEP Maria Walsh calls for Fine Gael Youth president to resign over trip to US right-wing conference

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

Hugh O'Connell

A Fine Gael MEP is calling for the resignation of the president of the party’s youth wing over his attendance at a right-wing conservative youth conference in the US last week.

Midlands North-West MEP Maria Walsh, who was elected to the European Parliament in May, said she would be writing to Young Fine Gael (YFG) to call for the resignation of its president Killian Foley-Walsh. Separately, Fine Gael’s Dublin Central Dáil candidate Deirdre Duffy said she would be complaining to party HQ over Mr Foley-Walsh’s attendance at the Young America’s Foundation conference in Washington DC last week.

YAF is a conservative youth organisation whose alumni include the far-right White House adviser Stephen Miller. Many members are opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage and speakers this year included US vice-­president Mike Pence and a number of conservative politicians suh as former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Mr Foley-Walsh, who is also a member of Fine Gael’s national executive, and YFG’s social media officer Chloe Kennedy said they attended the conference in a personal capacity and that the trip was funded by themselves and the Edmund Burke Institute, a conservative educational charity that advocates for market-based politics.

Mr Foley-Walsh said he did not support or endorse the views Mr Miller. He said he was in favour of same-sex marriage and “strongly opposed” to abortion. His attendance has been criticised by figures within Young Fine Gael, including Fine Gael TD Noel Rock.

Ms Walsh told the Irish Independent: “Quite frankly, Mr Foley-Walsh, given his position, should not have aligned with this conference. To support, to commit time, and to offer value by sharing an interest [in it] is not a reflection of the other members within YFG, and certainly not my own. I have spoken to several of the YFG members who also share their disappointment and outrage.”

She said YFG had been integral in the successful same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 and the referendum on abortion last year. “I will be writing to the YFG committee calling the resignation of Mr Foley-Walsh,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ms Duffy, a leading figure in the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, said she was “deeply concerned” by Mr Foley-Walsh’s attendance at the YAF event and would be raising the issue with Fine Gael HQ. “Obviously they are perfectly entitled to their opinions. However I am deeply concerned about anyone who aligns themselves with such conservative US elements.,” she said.

She added: “I know many young people in YFG who do not support these values or US reactionary conservative elements and are also concerned about their actions. Ireland does not need the US conservative politics of hate, spin and fake news that divides and works against true democracy.”

Mr Foley-Walsh did not respond to calls or texts on Tuesday. Fine Gael said “no comment”.

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