Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has defended tweeting a photograph of a Famine-era eviction which had been reworked to include members of An Garda Síochána.
Eoin Ó Broin tweeted the image on April 1 following the removal of the eviction ban, which was introduced as an emergency measure during the Covid-19 pandemic and prevented no-fault evictions.
The image was created by Bray, County Wicklow artist, Mála Spíosarí, and is based on a 19th-century painting by Daniel MacDonald (1821-1853). Spíosarí inserted the presence of the Gardai (Irish police) having based the altered image on the evictions which took place on Frederick Street in Dublin in 2018. He is now selling prints of the art piece for charity.
No words needed (credit Mála Spíosraí) pic.twitter.com/JK6NVcFNeU— Eoin Ó Broin (@EOBroin) April 1, 2023
Ó Broin tweeted the image alongside the caption "no words needed".
Minister for Justice Simon Harris described the post as "offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful".
"Today’s social media post by a leading member of the main opposition party shows what they really think of the Gardai. The mask slips. It’s offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful to the men and women of An Garda Siochana," Harris said on Twitter.
Today’s social media post by a leading member of the main opposition party shows what they really think of the Gardai. The mask slips. It’s offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful to the men and women of An Garda Siochana— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) April 1, 2023
General Secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors Antoinette Cunningham described the tweet as "deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate", while Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin called on Ó Broin to delete the tweet and apologize to An Garda Síochána.
Ó Broin, however, defended the tweet, stating that it was intended as a criticism of Government policy.
"That is what happens in cases of a court-ordered eviction. The tweet is intended as a criticism of Government policy, not the gardaí," Ó Broin said.
The artist, Spíosraí, told the Irish Times she believes that people are missing the point of her painting.
He told the Times “A lot of people seem to be missing the point of it [the image], I think... People seem to be really wound up about it as if it’s like it’s some sort of fantastical thing. The guards in the picture are from a picture from the Frederick Street eviction, it’s not like a made-up thing. I just changed the property to an older property, people are like ‘this is ridiculous’ but it’s a real thing."