Belfast Telegraph

'I have never supported bombing' - Mark Durkan hits back at Sinn Fein in European Army row

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan is running for Fine Gael.
Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan is running for Fine Gael.

By Cormac McQuinn

European Election candidate Mark Durkan has hit back at Sinn Fein's claim that Fine Gael supports militarisation of the EU saying that he never supported bombing anywhere, but that the rival party can't say the same.

Mr Durkan made the pointed reference to Sinn Fein's support for the Provisional IRA's campaign of terror as he responded to criticisms made by his Dublin opponent Lynn Boylan during the campaign.

Ms Boylan has claimed that Fine Gael can't be trusted with Irish neutrality and wants further integration and militarisation in the EU. Mr Durkan said Sinn Fein's claims come from "a playbook of innuendo against Europe".

He said he was someone who negotiated for peace in Northern Ireland and voted against military action in Syria and Libya when he was a Westminster MP.

"I'm someone that's never supported bombing. I didn't support bombing in this country, I haven't supported it in any other country. Sinn Fein cannot say that," he added.

Mr Durkan also referred to the use of clips of European Parliament speeches by Sinn Fein leader and former MEP Mary Lou McDonald by Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.

Its YouTube page features a montage including a variety of contributions made by Ms McDonald in 2008 when the Lisbon Treaty was being debated ahead of the first referendum, when it was rejected by Irish voters.

Ms McDonald said the treaty "gives powerful EU institutions a free hand to further militarise our union".

Mr Durkan claimed Sinn Fein's message provided "grist to Nigel Farage's mill".

He added: "Sinn Fein claim to have moved from being Eurosceptic to being Euro critical but it's clear that they essentially are backing vocalists for Euro disrupters."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Michelle Devane/PA)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Michelle Devane/PA)

A Sinn Fein spokesperson responded, saying: "This is a desperate attempt by Mark Durkan to make himself relevant."

The spokesperson claimed: "His ignorance to the militarisation of the EU is astonishing, especially when senior European figures have been so open about their support for the establishment of an EU army."

They added that Mr Durkan "seems to forget which party banner he is running under".

Meanwhile, a row erupted between Fine Gael and RTE after Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty claimed Mr Durkan was "excluded" from an upcoming TV debate.

Ms Doherty said her party was not allowed choose which of their Dublin candidates will appear on Monday night's 'Claire Byrne Live' debate as the criteria set out by RTE meant Mr Durkan was disqualified. She said former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald will take part in the debate but that "RTE took that choice away from us".

RTE's managing editor of current affairs David Nally said: "RTE current affairs decides who appears on its programmes in the best interests of the viewing public and not anybody else."

He said RTE's criteria for the debates are that where a party has two candidates in the same constituency, the one that is currently elected will be invited.

He said: "Frances Fitzgerald is currently elected to the Dail and Mark Durkan is not currently elected to any body. An RTE statement said that Mr Durkan was included in the 'Week in Politics' debate earlier this month.

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