Micheál Martin forced to rebuke his own TD after controversial Brexit tweet

Micheál Martin forced to rebuke his own TD after controversial Brexit tweet

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been forced to rebuke one of his most senior TDs after Timmy Dooley was accused of opening the door to Brexiteers by lashing out at the Government's lack of Brexit diplomacy.

Mr Martin said he wanted to make it "absolutely clear" his party believes new British prime minister Boris Johnson is at fault for the diplomatic stand-off after a private phone call with Mr Dooley in which he ordered his colleague to tone down the rhetoric.

In a message on Twitter on Tuesday morning, Fianna Fáil's communications spokesperson Mr Dooley said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needed to take some responsibility for ongoing problems with Britain.

Citing the Taoiseach's tough stance against ongoing British pressure to back down on the backstop, Mr Dooley wrote:

The stand-off with our nearest neighbour is as a direct result of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's failure to engage in basic diplomacy over the past two years. The Government's lack of experience and arrogance will hurt Ireland in the coming months.

Mr Dooley's comments - which mirrored similar more subtle remarks from other Fianna Fáil TDs in recent days - were immediately attacked by rival parties.

Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond joked it was "good to see [Mr Dooley] joining the Daily Express school of thought", adding that the comments "have already been seized upon by the arch-Brexiteers and the hard Tory right in England who are delighted to see a weakness in what has been a united Irish front until now".

Labour leader Brendan Howlin was similarly critical, while Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said "I don't think the time is now" for Ireland to break with its united stance on Brexit, and that "Irish politicians need to act in unison to protect our interests".

In a bid to protect his party from a wider public backlash, Mr Martin distanced himself from his colleague's comments, writing on Twitter:

To be absolutely clear; the refusal by PM Boris Johnson to engage with European leaders and our Taoiseach without pre-conditions on Brexit is unacceptable and is not within the realms of normal diplomatic or political behaviour.

Mr Martin is understood to have sent the message after ordering Mr Dooley to delete his original tweet in a private phone call.

At the weekend, Mr Martin himself said the Government must not descend into Brexit "one-upmanship" with Britain.

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