Sinn Féin TD claims his exclamation of 'yippie' in the post was celebrating achievements in gay rights
SINN Féin TD Brian Stanley has said he doesn't have to apologise to the LGBTI community for a tweet he posted about Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.
In the post on June 2, 2017, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson wrote: “Yippie 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what you like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise in the morning.”
The comment was made just after Mr Varadkar said his successful election as Fine Gael leader showed “prejudice has no hold on this republic”.
Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh has called on Mr Stanley to explain what he meant by the tweet and asked why he was connecting the Tánaiste’s “sexual orientation and his democratically elected position”.
Mr Stanley was already the at the centre of controversy over a tweet he posted at the weekend about the death of British soldiers in Ireland.
Mr Stanley this morning claimed his “yippie” in the post about Mr Varadkar was him saying “it’s great that we have achieved the rights for gay people and for women”.
And, speaking at the launch of a PAC report on Nama, Mr Stanley defended his record in campaigning for gay rights.
He was asked by a reporter if he would apologise to the LGBT community for the tweet.
Mr Stanley insisted he has been campaigning for gay rights “before it was popular or fashionable.”
He said: “I grew up in an Ireland where gay people were criminalised… teenaged friends of mine who were gay took abuse.”
“I grew up in an Ireland where women were treated appallingly.
“And my record stands on its own… I have campaigned in every referendum including the two divorce referendums, I campaigned for contraception, I campaigned for gay rights.
“I actively campaigned for gay marriage”.
He said that just last Friday he submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Government on a gap in the law that doesn’t allow adoptive leave for gay couples.
He added: “I don’t have to apologise.
“People in the gay community including in my own party and members of this
house like [Fine Gael Senator] Jerry Buttimer who is on the Government benches would know my record.
“Leo Varadkar would know my record on it. What way I voted on it every time…
“[Sinn Féin Senator] Fintan Warfield would know it.
“People who are across the house in the lesbian community would know my record.
“So I don’t have any apologies to make to anybody.”
He sought to explain the Twitter post saying: “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.”
Mr Stanley has apologised for his tweet about the death of British soldiers during the War of Independence and the Troubles admitting it was insensitive.
He deleted that post.
Mr Stanley brushed aside questions on why he referenced Mr Varadkar's sexuality at all and if he regretted the Tweet.
He said tweets are "shorthand" and "there is dangers with short tweets can be misinterpreted"
He again said the "yippie" meant "I would celebrate the fact that we had got so far in terms of the rights for gay people".
Put to him that the tweet didn't come across that way, Mr Stanley said: "If we’re going to get to the point where we don’t allow some level of freedom of speech and for every word that everyone utters to be twisted and turned to suit someone else’s agenda we’re not going very far as a society.
"As I said my record with the LGBT community stands for itself."
He again said: "I do not have to apologise to anybody."
PAC deputy chairperson - Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy - was asked if she accepted Mr Stanley's explanations.
Ms Murphy said Mr Stanley outlined his role in the furtherance of the rights of gay people and she accepts that.
But she added: "I don’t think it’s ever acceptable to link someone’s sexual orientation with public policy.
"I don’t think the reference to [Mr Varadkar] is acceptable - that would be my own view."