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Mary Lou McDonald defends Sinn Féin attendance at Nicolas Maduro inauguration

Mary Lou McDonald (centre) said she was 'glad' party representatives attended Nicloas Maduro's inauguration. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has defended two senior party members' attendance at last week's inauguration of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

The party has been criticised for sending former Stormont minister Conor Murphy and general secretary Dawn Doyle to the event after Mr Maduro's re-election was branded a fraud by the EU and US.

Mrs McDonald said Mr Maduro had been "democratically elected", adding that there were people in Ireland too who would not endorse the leadership of the taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Sinn Féin was criticised after two senior party figures attended the inauguration of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Picture by Ariana Cubillos

Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesman Niall Collins said Sinn Féin's presence at the inauguration was "just another example" of why the party is "unfit for government".

The vast majority of the opposition in Venezuela boycotted last year's vote on the grounds that it was rigged in favour of Mr Maduro, however, he continues to enjoy support from the country's armed forces.

Mrs McDonald said she was "glad" the party representatives had attended.

"As to endorsing others, the important thing is that countries freely select their political leaderships and freely elect their governments and their government officials," she said.

"So it's not for us to be endorsing or otherwise, we have our political work to do here – we present ourselves for election here to the people of Ireland."

Mr Maduro replaced Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013 and won a six-year term last year despite hyperinflation and chronic food shortages. He blames an "economic war" led by the US coupled with internal opposition.

"We believe that the Venezuelan election was open and democratic and the president has been elected. Let me tell you this, it is for the people of Venezuela and for them alone to decide who their president is and who leads them and that's our position. It's the only democratic position you can have," the Sinn Féin leader said.

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