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Widely criticised from the ranks… Controversy over Sinn Fein leaders’ silence on the Palestine issue

Dublin— Amidst a swirl of controversy surrounding Sinn Féin’s apparent silence on the Palestine issue during discussions with US leaders, the party’s stance—or lack thereof—has raised eyebrows among observers and garnered criticism from various quarters.

During a forum attended by world leaders, Sinn Féin refrained from addressing the Palestine situation, instead focusing solely on Northern Ireland’s investment concerns, a move that surprised many. While restrictions were reportedly imposed on Northern Ireland’s rulers regarding the Palestine issue, party leader Mary Lou McDonald faced no such constraints. Nevertheless, the conspicuous silence displayed by Sinn Féin leaders, including Mary Lou McDonald, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill, and her deputy, during these high-level discussions drew widespread criticism.

Critics, including Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, accused Sinn Féin of exhibiting a dual stance on the Palestine issue. Their failure to address the matter, particularly in the presence of global leaders, was seen as contradictory to Sinn Féin’s historical support for Palestine. Notably, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s vocal stance on the Palestine issue during his conversations with US President Joe Biden received significant media attention and praise.

While Sinn Féin representatives had indicated their intention to raise the Gaza crisis with US officials, their silence at the round table ceremony in Washington, D.C., as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration left supporters puzzled. The absence of any mention of Palestine during the banquet, attended by numerous dignitaries, was particularly surprising given Sinn Féin’s longstanding advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Despite criticisms, Sinn Féin leaders defended their approach, asserting that their primary objective during the visit was to attract investment, with plans to address the Gaza issue separately. Mary Lou McDonald emphasised Sinn Féin’s consistent advocacy for Palestine at various levels of the US government and reiterated her commitment to advocating for a ceasefire.

However, allegations surfaced suggesting that Mary Lou McDonald’s silence stemmed from concerns about losing favour and potential financial support. Nonetheless, McDonald delivered a passionate speech at Georgetown University, condemning human rights violations in Gaza and meeting with Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.

The perception of Sinn Féin’s strategic silence on the Palestine issue, especially in the presence of American leaders, has sparked debate and disappointment within the party ranks. Sinn Féin faces criticism for potentially squandering a significant opportunity to amplify the Palestinian cause on an international stage, while Leo Varadkar’s proactive stance on the issue further exacerbates tensions with Sinn Féin’s Irish counterparts.

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