Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald meets Rashida Tlaib before St Patrick's Day reception with Biden

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald meets Rashida Tlaib before St Patrick's Day reception with Biden
Sinn Fein's president has met with Rashida Tlaib as her party faces a backlash for a planned reception at the White House with Joe Biden amid Gaza war.
3 min read
13 March, 2024
Mary Lou McDonald has come under fire for not boycotting a meeting with US president Joe Biden amid US support for Israel's devastating attack on Gaza [Getty]

Sinn Féin President and the Republic of Ireland’s leader of the opposition Mary Lou McDonald met with Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday, ahead of her St Patrick’s Day tour of the US.

“Met with [Rashida Tlaib] - a powerful voice for Palestine in the US Congress. We stand with her in calling for a ceasefire, an end to occupation and a free Palestine,” McDonald wrote on X, accompanied with a picture of the two meeting and the hashtag “#ceasefirenow”.

Tlaib also took to social media to share the encounter, writing on X: “Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and I want a lasting ceasefire to save lives. I am so grateful for and inspired by the Irish solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The meeting between McDonald and Tlaib comes as Sinn Féin's participation in the US tour, which also includes Ireland's ruling coalition parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, comes under fire at home from anti-war groups due to a planned meeting with US President Joe Biden at a special White House reception for St Patrick's day.

McDonald’s meeting with a figure such as Tlaib will be seen as an attempt to assuage critics who believe they should not be visiting Washington at all.

Tlaib, the first and only Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, is one of the strongest voices in support of Gaza and a ceasefire, which the US government refuses to support as it continues to arm Israel. In November, she was officially censured by her fellow members of Congress, including members of her own party, after she defended the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Many within Ireland see Sinn Féin's decision not to boycott a meeting with Biden as contradicting its pro-Palestine stance.

The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) announced on Wednesday that despite being invited, it will not travel to Washington due to the Biden Administration's support for Israel’s “inhumanity in Gaza”.

“More children have been killed, communities obliterated and thousands of people displaced as a result of this horrifying conflict. And now, during the holy month of Ramadan, we have clear warnings that starvation is being used as a weapon of war against the Palestinian people," the party leader Colum Eastwood said in a statement.

“We cannot drink Guinness and have the craic [at the White House] while people in Gaza continue to be persecuted,” he added.

Sinn Féin has taken strong pro-Palestine positions before and during Israel's war on Gaza, including supporting Ireland formally endorsing South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ and supporting an immediate permanent ceasefire.

In a statement justifying their visit to the White House in January, Sinn Féin’s international department wrote on X that they will use the chance to “advocate for an end to the Israeli genocidal war and occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.”

They further stated that they would urge the US to support “the establishment of a peace process in Palestine and self-determination for the Palestinian people.”