Irish Jewish leader will request Sinn Fein politicians be educated about antisemitism

Maurice Cohen said that he would be happy to meet Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to discuss antisemitism after a scandal involving one of her party's parliamentarians


The Chairman of Ireland’s Jewish Representative Council has told the JC he will ask for Sinn Féin politicians to be educated about antisemitism after the Irish republican party leader expressed a willingness to meet the country's Jewish community.

“I will have an agenda, as no doubt will Mary Lou McDonald,” Maurice Cohen said, referring to Sinn Féin’s leader.

“One of the items on mine will be to ask that politicians be educated on the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and that they adhere to these guidelines in all discourse.”

Chairman Maurice Cohen made the comment as Sinn Féin seeks to make amends after one of its newly elected parliamentarians, Réada Cronin, was found to have posted a string of antisemitic messages on social media.

Responding to questions on Thursday, Mary Lou McDonald said that Sinn Fein “condemned all racism and bigotry” and that she hoped to be able to meet the Jewish Representative Council to discuss the matter further.

Mr Cohen said that he was yet to hear directly from Sinn Féin since the scandal emerged, but that he expects to be contacted early next week about a prospective meeting.

He said: “Sinn Féin have categorically stated that they will brook no antisemitism whatsoever in this country. The community hopes and prays that they will adhere to that.”

Ms Cronin compared Israeli embassy staff to monkeys, said that Israel had taken “Nazism to a new level” and retweeted a post saying that Hitler was a pawn of a Rothschild-owned bank.

Ms Cronin has since apologised, calling the tweets “off-the-cuff”.

Speaking to the Irish Times on Monday, Maurice Cohen said that the Jewish Representative Council was planning to write to every member of the new Irish Dáil and Seanad, Ireland’s upper house, underlining the risk of antisemitic discourse in the public debate.

Mr Cohen said that he was planning to send copies of the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism to all new members of the Dáil and the Senead, once it is elected at the end of March.

The Irish parliament, the Dáil, failed to elect a new Taoiseach on Thursday allowing for a period of 14 days in which negotiations will take place between the parties about securing enough support to form a government.

Sinn Fein staged an electoral earthquake in the polls on February 8, securing the highest number of first preference votes and coming in second in terms of seats behind the centre Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael, the centre-right party of the now former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, came in third. 

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