By Dominic McGrath, PA
The Green Party has said that comments made in a WhatsApp group by TD Brian Leddin are now a “legal matter”.
Speaking at the party’s think-in in south Dublin, deputy leader Catherine Martin said: “It is a legal matter now and subject to Garda investigation.”
A spokesperson said that Mr Leddin would not be taking questions on the issue, calling it a “legal matter”.
The Garda press office has been contacted for comment.
Last week, Ms Martin said she was “disappointed” about the failure to discipline Mr Leddin, who apologised for comments he made in a party WhatsApp group about Limerick councillor Elisa O’Donovan, in which he called her “unhinged” and said she “craved fame”.
On Monday, deputy leader Ms Martin declined to comment further on the matter except to say: “Just to clarify that I was describing the language used by people in that WhatsApp last week.”
“I have made my views publicly known. I have made my views known to Brian and Eamon and I stand by them.”
Further derogatory comments were made by others in the group, which Mr Leddin has acknowledged he should have objected to.
He subsequently appeared before a meeting of the party’s executive committee, which noted his apology and decided he would not be sanctioned.
Party leader Eamon Ryan defended the party’s handling of comments made by the Green Party TD in the WhatsApp group.
On Monday afternoon, speaking at the think-in, Mr Ryan said the issue of Mr Leddin’s comments would be discussed at the event, but insisted the party would be discussing other issues.
“That will not be the central theme of the issues that we’re discussing here today,” he said.
Asked about the party’s decision not to sanction Mr Leddin, he said: “We have a real tradition in our party of local democracy, of actually engaging our members and we have a constitutional structure that has been a real strength to our party over 40 years, based on the Green principles.”
“We believe in democracy. We believe in giving people responsibility, asking them for their view. In that structure our executive committee has a central role in a lot of how we manage and run our party. And we will continue to look at this and any other issue as is appropriate.”
Earlier, Mr Ryan told RTÉ radio that there is no gap between himself and his parliamentary party, ahead of the Green Party think-in.
On Monday, the Green Party leader said he was “perfectly close” with his party colleagues, while also stressing that the coalition Government is working and making strides to tackle climate change.
Mr Ryan’s leadership has come in for criticism since his party agreed to enter government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, with some high-profile defections from the party’s ranks and a leadership contest between Mr Ryan and deputy leader Catherine Martin last year.
He also backed the party’s handling of comments made by Mr Leddin. Mr Ryan told RTÉ radio that he agreed with the Executive’s decision.
“We have a huge amount of work to do, and have been doing a lot of work in the last year, in how we do what we’ve always done, try to insist on dignity and respect, particularly on social media networks, where there’s a tendency, a characteristic of those networks, that they tend to divide,” he said.
“Brian apologised but it’s critical in what we do today, we show that dignity and respect.”
Mr Ryan also said that his party will back Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney in a no-confidence vote when the Dail resumes this week.
Mr Coveney and the Government have faced criticism over the handling of the short-lived appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone to a UN special envoy role.
He said that “there was a mistake made” but the Government had moved on.
“I don’t believe the Irish people would thank us if we brought down a government,” Mr Ryan said.