Irish MEPs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly have defended a recent visit to an Iraqi militia headquarters after they were dubbed an "embarrassment to Ireland".
The two MEPs visited a brigade headquarters of Hashed al-Shaabi in Iraq to criticise American foreign policy in the region. Footage of this visit has now been used in a YouTube video to promote the group.
The footage, released on March 30, shows Mr Wallace and Ms Daly viewing a picture gallery wall of 'martyrs', before they speak about their trip.
Ms Daly confirmed that the pair had met with politicians, religious groups as well as the Hashed al-Shaabi group as part of their recent trip.
"But they're actually part of the Iraqi army now, so people in the West and the EU, say these are a terrorist organisation, they are not terrorist organisations.
"They are organisations which have been through their human rights training under the Geneva Convention in terms of how to deal with civilians in conflict, for example, they've worked closely with the Iraqi army. They've been dealing with the Covid fallout, for example, they've been rebuilding schools in areas. This isn't the type of stuff that a terrorist organisation does."
Mr Wallace said "one of the stones that the West throws at" Hashed al-Shaabi is the fact that they are an Iranian-supported militia.
While he said the group still gets support from Iran, Mr Wallace said they are now fighting for Iraqi sovereignty and independence including from Iran.
"Iran played a huge part in the formation of Hashed al-Shaabi, but Hashed al-Shaabi went to great lengths to tell us that they are now incorporated under the Iraqi army, they work for the Iraqi government, they are under their orders. And while they have great respect for the help Iran give them they want to be independent of Iran," Mr Wallace said on the 'I4C Trouble with Daly and Wallace' podcast.
Mr Wallace said he had been appointed EU Parliament rapporteur for the country last year and was "bursting to go to Iraq".
Mr Wallace and Ms Daly then decided to travel, but not on behalf of the European Parliament.
He said that an official trip would have involved a "big fanfare" but they wouldn't have had much freedom around who they met or where they went.
Ms Daly described the trip as "overwhelming".
The visit has been condemned by Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne and claimed the two MEPs are "an embarrassment to Ireland".
“These two MEPs visited a Shiite militant group that has lured gay people to their deaths. If their support for Lukashenko in Belarus and Hezbollah in Lebanon was not bad enough. They are an embarrassment to Ireland," Mr Byrne said.
He added that while, “seeking to understand issues in a conflict is a good thing, not doing due diligence on a group in advance and allowing themselves to be used as propaganda tools is foolish.”
A spokesperson for the European Parliament said the visit was not part of an official delegation.
"This visit is organised in private capacity and does not represent the House. Also note that given the current health situation, missions of committees and inter-parliamentary delegations inside and outside of the European Union are cancelled," the spokesperson said.