TD Rose Conway Walsh, the spokesperson for higher and further education for Sinn Féin, apologised this week for her comments comparing plans to reopen indoor dining for vaccinated people to racial segregation faced by Rosa Parks in 1950s America.

Speaking during a debate on the proposed reopening, Ms Conway Walsh said that “it’s becoming more and more obvious as the evening goes on that this legislation is completely unworkable and unjust.”

She followed up by adding, “I really thought of Rosa Parks. And I thought of the segregation that is being done here. And to say that people are being treated differently, but they are not being discriminated against is just plain wrong.”

The comments sparked heavy criticism online and from other politicians. Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer called the reopening plans a “temporary public health measure which temporarily removes some freedoms to protect us,” before adding “Rosa Parks was a champion, this case is not comparable.”

The Mayo TD was quick to apologise following the backlash. Taking to Twitter, Conway Walsh explained that she was attempting to make a wider point about segregating people but understands that the two situations are in no way comparable. 

Ms Conway Walsh is not the first TD to face criticism for comments on the plans to only allow vaccinated people to dine indoors. The independent TD from Tipperary, Mattie McGrath, argued that the COVID-19 vaccination passes were comparable to discrimination in Nazi Germany. 

His comments sparked criticism from the official Auschwitz Museum who blasted his comments as a “sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”

Additionally, Michael Fitzmaurice, TD from Roscommon-Galway also argued that the legislation marked the advent of a dictatorship in Ireland. 

Indoor dining is set to re-open for vaccinated people on July 26th with a time limit of one hour and 45 minutes. It is still uncertain when un-vaccinated people can dine indoors. 

Conor Paterson – Co-Editor