Friday, November 17, 2017

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on Barry Walsh to resign from Fine Gael’s national executive council pending inquiries into abusive tweets he posted, writes Daniel McConnell.

Speaking at the Gothenburg Social Summit on Friday, Mr Varadkar said: “Mr Walsh’s conduct is below the standards of what I’d expect from a Fine Gael officer.”

Barry Walsh

Mr Walsh was the subject of stinging criticism from TD Kate O’Connell at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.

He is to face an internal disciplinary inquiry over tweets in which female politicians and pro-choice campaigners were described in derogatory terms, including “bitch”.

But the call from the Taoiseach for him to resign means his departure from his position is inevitable.

“There are lots of trolls, lots of nasty people, and lots of horrible language on Twitter, but I expect Fine Gael officers to set a higher standard and I think at this stage it would be for the best if he resigned and stepped down as a member of the Fine Gael executive council pending disciplinary procedure which is now underway,” said Mr Varadkar.

In a short statement last night, the Taoiseach promised a swift disciplinary process and said all party officers had responsibilities to uphold the highest standard.

“Mr Walsh’s use of language is not acceptable to me as party leader . . . A disciplinary process is now in train and will be completed swiftly,” he said.

“All debate should be conducted in a respectful manner at party meetings, in the media and on social media. Party officers have a particular responsibility to set the standard in that regard.”

 

Kate O’Connell

Details of Ms O’Connell’s complaints, obtained by the Irish Examiner, say Mr Walsh engaged online in “nasty” and “downright abusive” behaviour.

Ms O’Connell says several members of the parliamentary party have been subject to abuse from him, including her and Social Affairs Minister Regina Doherty.

It is understood that actor and comedian Tara Flynn has also made a complaint to Fine Gael.

A tweet that has caused anger was one Mr Walsh posted about the actor, who had an abortion.

He wrote: “From what Tara Flynn says, she was pregnant and just couldn’t be bothered having a baby. So she had it killed. Why is she a feminist hero?”

In other tweets, he called women “bitches” and “stupid”.

The issue was raised this week by Ms O’Connell at Fine Gael’s weekly meeting in Leinster House, where a five-page dossier of the offensive tweets was distributed to members.

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