By Daniel Brennan
Sinn Féin Councillor Paddy Holohan was recently suspended from the party over a number of offensive comments he made over several episodes of his podcast. First, he made a number of comments with homophobic and racist undertones aimed at Leo Varadkar; “We need people running the country — and not against Leo — but to me, I want a family man running the country… someone that knows what it’s like to have kids, maybe hopefully boys and girls, so when you’re creating the policies and stuff that’s going to go on, that you’re like, right, it makes sense”, and “He’s so separated not even from society now but he’s so separated from the history of this country… Leo Varadkar’s blood obviously runs to India. His great-grandfather is not part of the history of this country. Now Leo obviously is… he’s an Irish citizen but his passion doesn’t go back to the times when our passion goes back to”.
Speaking from a personal political standpoint – I despise Fine Gael, and all they have done to harm the poor, the disadvantaged, and anyone with the gall to want a roof over their head. Their politics disgust me, and their backwards thinking has caused untold misery to so many… but none of that is any excuse to claim that the reason for any of their awful policies has anything to do with the race and sexuality of Leo Varadkar.
Using Varadkar’s Indian heritage as reasoning for his party’s policies screams one thing to me – white nationalism. Talking about the purity of a person of colour’s blood compared to “real” Irish people is a sickening thought, veiled by Holohan under the guise of the Irish definition of nationalism – a very different thing throughout history compared to the white elitism Holohan is echoing.
Through the likes of James Connolly, Padraig Pearse, the Sheehy-Skeffingtons and many other figures, the Irish nationalist movement Holohan seems to be harking back to was never based around any sort of white supremacy. It was based around egalitarianism and enfranchising all citizens, not whatever Paddy Holohan thinks it was in his fantasy world. Holohan’s nationalism is not Irish nationalism, but rather white nationalism sneakily being used under the banner of “real” Irish nationalism.
Holohan’s “family man” comments are equally sickening. The simple question is this – would he have even brought up the topic of family if Varadkar wasn’t a gay man? I think not.
His hollow apology did nothing for me. Claiming his comments were “misinterpreted” and apologising to anyone who was “offended” by his comments is simply not an apology. Anyone who can read can interpret what his comments aimed at Varadkar were based in – inherent racist and homophobic views. Apart from the blatant racism and homophobia, Holohan’s arguments can be deconstructed simply by looking at all the other Fine Gael politicians around Varadkar – they all hold very similar views to Leo, despite the overwhelming majority of them not coming from a minority in society. Their views come from a place of capitalist greed and monetary privilege, not from their ethnic origin or sexual preference.
Following on from that controversy, which emerged right at the beginning of a general election campaign, further comments were uncovered from Holohan – this time with some very strange comments aimed at women, saying; “There is some f***ing scum women out there as well. And I just want to say to you, there’s a situation that I heard during the week… somebody was underage, the [other] person didn’t know they were underage, the girl pursued the guy. Got whatever she needed, had pictures, had videos, and then said “I want 10 grand”. And that wasn’t the first person, there was loads of them. What is that kind of situation is that that’s going on in society now? I have two sons. It petrifies me, petrifies me that somebody could turn around and say I’m literally just going to say that you attacked me if you don’t give me 10 grand. And people go, ‘no, that doesn’t happen’. It absolutely, I put my hand on my heart and tell you it does happen. And it is happening out there”.
What’s very clear is that Holohan echoes many online far-right reactionary figures with his statements here. His views clearly do not align with anything Sinn Fein or the Irish nationalist movement strives for… and yet all he is given is a suspension pending an internal party review – whatever that means. In situations like this, when someone quite clearly holds some pretty problematic views *at best* that are at odds with what your party apparently stands for… why not just dismiss him entirely? How hard is it to stand up for what’s right rather than waiting for the media attention to die down before quietly letting him continue to represent the party?