Mr Varadkar had raised questions about Sinn Fein’s political fundraising – but a Sinn Fein spokesman suggested he was still smarting from a poll showing a worrying slump in support for Fine Gael, the party he leads. The spokesman described Mr Varadkar’s comments as a “disgrace” and beneath the office of the Taoiseach.
This is outrageous mud-slinging
Sinn Fein spokesman
He added: “These comments are completely fabricated and this is outrageous mud-slinging on the part of the caretaker Taoiseach who is clearly struggling to get to grips with the election results and this weekend’s opinion poll.
“These disgraceful and baseless comments discredit the office of Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar really should reflect on them.”
Mr Varadkar made his remarks in a column for Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper.
He wrote: “Sinn Fein public representatives claim to earn only the average industrial wage, yet their salaries are not returned to taxpayers or donated to the party.
“Many appear to live way beyond their means.”
Amid uncertainty following February 8’s inconclusive general election, Mr Varadkar stressed there were “fundamental differences” between his party and the one led by Mary Lou McDonald which made them “incompatible” as coalition partners.
He also claimed Sinn Fein, which has historical links with the IRA, held “lavish” fundraisers in the United States with the cash “routed through Northern Ireland”.
In addition, he accused the party of buying via “front companies”, and criticised Sinn Fein MPs for taking £4.5million in salaries from Westminster without taking their seats.
He added: “These irregularities cause us real concern and deserve further scrutiny and a proper investigation.
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“Sinn Fein owes it to all of us to clear up these matters once and for all.”
He also accused blamed Sinn Fein for a rise in online “hate speech”.
He added: “Every day, we see an online assault against anyone who dares question or criticise them.
“Sometimes this is even aimed at people from other political parties, who have the temerity to post a positive message about their work.”
Mr Varadkar is continuing as the country’s leader in an acting capacity in the wake of the election, which saw Fine Gael take just 35 seats in Ireland’s 160-seat legislature, the Dail, having taken 20.9 percent of first-preference votes.
Sinn Fein took 24.5 per percent, winning 37 seats, while Fianna Fail, Ireland’s other main party, took 22 percent.
The Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes poll suggested since the election, support for Sinn Fein had surged to 35 percent, up more than ten points, while support for Fine Gael has fallen three to just 18 percent, with Fianna Fail on 20, down two.
The survey was based on a sample of 917 Irish voters interviewed face-to-face between February 17 and 25.
Speaking last month, Mr Varadkar claimed a series of planned rallies were “designed to be the next phase in Sinn Fein’s campaign of intimidation and bullying”.
Ms McDonald, who yesterday announced she and her children are currently self-isolating as a result of a coronavirus scare at their school, said: “Mr Varadkar’s comments were over the top and were a demonstration by him and by a political establishment who are desperately reaching for something to stop an unstoppable change in Irish politics.”
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