Sinn Féin unfit to lead due to IRA past – Varadkar

Leo Varadkar
Image caption,Leo Varadkar has said Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence was a political stunt

Aoife Moore

BBC News NI Dublin reporter

A vote of no confidence in the Irish justice minister has heard Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA make them unfit for government.

Helen McEntee survived the vote in the Dáil (Irish parliament) by 83 to 63.

The vote, brought by Sinn Féin, follows the stabbing of a number of children and their teacher sparked riots across Dublin city centre.

Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats have said they have no confidence in the minister.

It follows reports that gardaí (Irish police) did not have an appropriate public order plan on 23 November, which saw a number of officers isolated and injured.

Sinn Féin said it had “no choice” to bring the motion.

Helen McEntee
Image caption,Justice Minister Helen McEntee is at the centre of a Sinn Féin confidence vote

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar, backing his colleague, said he had known Ms McEntee for nearly 20 years and worked on her by-election campaign after the death of her father Shane McEntee TD (MP).

“Helen is trustworthy, sincere, intelligent and loyal. She is someone I turn to in difficult times and is never afraid to show her mettle when challenged as she has in the past week or two,” he said.

Mr Varadkar called for a sense of proportion, balance and unity in times of crisis.

“The Sinn Féin motion of no confidence was a political stunt. Unnecessary and counterproductive,” he said.

“Sinn Féin has talked a lot about the horrific events unfolding in the Middle East and rightly so. But they will not acknowledge war crimes that may have happened in this country,” he continued.

“Crimes committed in our name by terrorists the Irish people always rejected. Crimes like the Enniskillen and Warrington bombings in which children were killed.”

The taoiseach also noted the IRA murders of Garda Jerry McCabe, Private Patrick Kelly and prison officer Brian Stack.

“That’s why we cannot have a Sinn Féin taoiseach, why we cannot have a Sinn Féin justice minister and why we cannot have a Sinn Féin defence minister in the next government or any government,” he added.

‘No step change or urgency’

Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin president and TD for Dublin Central, said parents tell her that they feel “forgotten, vulnerable and afraid”.

“This is the responsibility of the minister for justice to ensure that our streets are safe, to ensure that An Garda Síochána (the Irish police force) have the resources that they need and she fails in these responsibilities abysmally with very dire consequences.

“Despite communities and businesses crying it from the rooftops, there has been no step change or urgency from government. But that change has to start now.”

Mary Lou McDonal
Image caption,Mary Lou McDonald has said the justice minister’s position is “untenable”

She added: “There is nothing more political than keeping people safe. In fact, the first responsibility of any government worthy of the name is to keep its citizens safe. And to make sure this happens, we need your major change of direction.

“Minister McEntee has proven incapable of providing the leadership, the direction and the purpose needed to make our streets and our communities safe. The minister’s position is untenable.”

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