No FF party sanction for Senator’s tweet slurs

by Sylvia Pownall
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Fianna Fail says it has no plans to discipline its Fingal bye-election candidate, Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, over tweets she wrote eight years ago.

The senator has been in the eye of a storm since offensive social media posts published in 2011 and 2012 – which have been deleted – were made public.

Ms Clifford-Lee, who is the party’s Seanad spokesperson on Justice and Equality, apologised, claiming she was the victim of a smear campaign.

In one tweet she referred to “some knacker” stealing her car, describing clothing as being “like something from a traveller wedding” in another, and repeatedly using the term “pikey” in others.

A Fianna Fail spokesperson told Dublin Gazette that while the party “does not condone” the tweets, it accepts they were made in a personal capacity.

Traveller spokesman Martin Collins said: “Any politician who harbours these type of ingrained prejudices and discriminatory attitudes should not be in public office.”

Mr Collins, who is co-director of Pavee Point, added: “It is as a result of these attitudes that Travellers continue to experience inequalities and exclusion.

“Recent elections have resulted in a rise in racist discourse. We also see a rise in racist violence, harassment and abuse and online hate speech.”

FF Justice spokesman Deputy Jim O’Callaghan said he found the tweets “offensive”, adding: “She made silly statements years ago, but I don’t believe they reflect her current thinking.”

He said it would be “beneficial” for Senator Clifford-Lee to meet with Pavee Point.

A number of historic tweets posted by Waterford native Ms Clifford-Lee, 38, who lives in Donabate, emerged at the weekend.

One in July, 2011 read: “Just doing up inventory of items in my car when it was stolen by some knacker. I think I am going to cry.”

In a tweet dated June, 2011, she described some clothes as being “like something from a traveller wedding” and referred to Kim Kardashian as “fat arse” in another.

In October, 2011 she wrote “was on #dublinbus for the 1st time in about a yr yesterday. Forgotten how much fun it is. A black Brazilian dwarf with Ginger hair sat beside me.”

In other tweets, she referred to Katie Price as “an absolute pikey” and commented that Cheryl Tweedy had “gotten rid of the pikey extensions at long last”.

In a statement, Ms Clifford-Lee said the tweets are from a time “long before I became involved in electoral politics” and were being taken out of context by individuals “to suit their own right-wing agenda”.

On Tuesday, she said the posts did not reflect her attitude to minority issues, adding that she would like to apologise “face to face” to the Traveller community.

Fingal Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly said Ms Clifford-Lee’s defence was “pathetic” and called for further clarity.

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