Leo Varadkar urged to apologise for calling Sinn Féin "sectarian"
Protestant Sinn Féin TD Violet-Anne Wynne has hit back against the Tánaiste's remarks.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has been asked to withdraw and apologise for comments he made on radio on Wednesday, where he called political party Sinn Féin "sectarian" because he said it had no Protestant TDs.
Earlier today, news broke that an advertising campaign from the US branch of Friends of Sinn Féin, calling for a referendum on Irish unity, will appear in several US newspapers.
The half-page ads will run with the title 'A United Ireland – Let the people have their say'.
The advertisement - which Friends of Sinn Féin USA have posted to their Twitter page - reads: "We appeal to the Irish Government to promote and plan for unity.
"As Americans, we call upon our government and public representatives to urge the British government to set the date for the Unity Referendum.
On RTE's News at One, Varadkar was asked about the campaign and said: "I don't have any objection to Sinn Féin running ads in support of reunification.
"It's a legitimate aspiration and one that I share.
"What I do have a problem with is that Sinn Féin is an obstacle to Irish unity.
"They've a relationship with unionism that is one of mutual hostility, which is a big problem, and they're sectarian.
"They're still very anti-British, they have no Protestant TDs, MLAs or senators."
He added: "I believe that for a united Ireland to be achieved... we need to talk about unity among people.
"That means accepting that there are a million people on the island who are British, that their national identity is as valid as ours, that the flag is orange as well as green.
"That's just not the way Sinn Féin thinks. Sinn Féin tend to scare off the middle ground."
In response, Sinn Féin TD for Clare Violet-Anne Wynne issued a statement disputing the Tánaiste's comments.
She said: "Leo Varadkar's constant attempts to score political points by spouting untruths and trying to demonise political opponents is getting tiresome.
"While nobody in Sinn Féin has ever made an issue of my religious views, it is not acceptable for the Tánaiste to do so.
"On national radio today, he said there are no Protestant TDs in our party. That is a lie.
"I am a Protestant and I am proud to be a Sinn Féin TD.
"The Tánaiste should immediately withdraw and apologise for his hurtful remarks."
Wynne also wrote to Varadkar on Twitter, saying: "I am a protestant and I am proud to be a representative for Sinn Féin," to which he responded: "I was not aware of that. I stand corrected."
In a statement later, he added: "I did not make any remarks, at all, about deputy Wynne personally. I was unaware of her religious affiliation and I stand corrected.
"I fully retract my remark and apologise for any offence caused."