Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the “deeply offensive” tweet sent by Sinn Féin TD and chair of the Public Accounts Committee Brian Stanley.
The Laois/Offaly TD sent the tweet on Saturday which celebrated two historical IRA attacks on the British army.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Martin said the tragedy in question referred to by Mr Stanley was part of a “very dark year, a very dark day”.
“One should never mock the death of loved ones and there’s many, many families who lost their sons in that attack at Narrow Water. The reference to the British Establishment was a reference to the Lord Mountbatten attack on the same day and there were three young boys on that boat,” Mr Martin said.
The Taoiseach said he can “never get over the horrific nature of that crime on that day. Young boys on the boat. Guests of Mountbatten and the bomb goes off. How anyone can do that is beyond me.” Mr Martin said it was an inhumane thing to do.
“How one then refers back to it in the manner that Brian Stanley did I think is deeply, deeply offensive. “
Mr Martin said Sinn Féin always seeks to justify its past, always seeks to justify what it did and no contrition really in terms of the appalling loss of life that happened over 30 years.
“But it was the mocking tone, you know, ‘pity it took them so long to learn,’ It erodes trust in terms of are people really genuine within Sinn Féin about reconciliation or is it always about victory? We were right, you were wrong, we won, you lost, type of narrative. And I think there’s a fundamental problem in terms of the Sinn Féin narrative that always seeks to justify what they call a 30-year war that ended up with so much death and destruction it could never be justified,” he said.
Sinn Féin need to address that issue as a party and as a movement, the Taoiseach said.
“They can’t keep going on playing two narratives. They can’t keep going on and saying you want to genuinely reconcile, you want a comprehensive legacy process when you keep on, when senior members of your party engage in this manner.
"I think Sinn Féin should deal with this in terms of Brian Stanley’s position and they need to atone for what happened on that day,” he said.
“Brian Stanley’s a very senior member of the party. It was a clearly pre-meditated tweet that was left there for quite some time and kind of worse, it was endorsed by many, many members who supported him. And I think it damages our ability to reach out and genuinely try and create trust in a shared endeavour in the future on this island. It doesn’t help that at all,” the Taoiseach said.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the tweet, which has since been deleted, amounted to "bile" which only adds to "division and hatred."
Mr Coveney called on Sinn Féin to make a "clear statement" adding that the party has a "responsibility" to move away from what he described as hatred.
"They talk about reconciliation yet a senior Sinn Féin person comes out with this bile on social media, which is really about division and hatred."
Mr Coveney added: "This isn't the first time this has happened. You know whether we hear shouting of 'Up the Ra' after the general election, whether we see senior Sinn Féin figures marching in St Patrick's Day parades with 'Brits Out', this kind of language needs to be consigned to history.
"We're trying to actually live in peace and reconciliation on this island with each other, nationalists and unionists and many others as well."
Mr Stanley, who is also the chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, sent the tweet on the centenary of the Kilmichael ambush in 1920.
He wrote to his 3,700 followers: “Kilmicheal (sic) (1920) and Narrow Water (1979) the 2 IRA operations that taught the elective of (the) British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.”
In a statement on Sunday, Mr Stanley said: "I apologise for the content of an inappropriate and insensitive tweet that I sent yesterday.”
Responding to the tweet, Mr Coveney said: "This isn't someone in Sinn Féin who allowed a rush of blood to the head, who's inexperienced, Brian Stanley is a senior Sinn Féin TD he's the chair of the Public Accounts Committee he should know better than this."
Mr Coveney told RTÉ radio’sthat this was “another case of the mask slipping” and said that these types of comments should be stopped and must be “consigned to history”.