Varadkar says ‘demonising’ all of Israel not best way to achieve goals following Sinn Féin comments on Robbie Keane

Mary Lou McDonald suggested former striker should have stepped down as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is not calling on Robbie Keane to consider his position as head coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv, following criticism of Mr Keane by Sinn Féin.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald last week said she believed Mr Keane had not made the right decision to continue coaching the Israeli Premier League side.

During a recent round table interview with political correspondents, Mr Varadkar was asked whether Mr Keane should now consider his position.

“I think primarily that’s a matter for him. He was offered a job and he’s taken it up in Tel Aviv,” said the Taoiseach.


“There are a lot of very good people in Israel who want there to be peace, who want justice for Palestinians, who want there to be a two-state solution. That used to be the majority, they are now the minority.

“I think they can be the majority again and I’m not convinced that demonising and ostracising an entire country, and entire nation of people, is actually the best way to achieve what we are trying to achieve.”

“I think it’s up to him, I’m not calling on him to consider his position at all.”

Mr Varadkar’s remarks come after Ms McDonald criticised Mr Keane for his decision to continue to manage the team.

She said she thought he had not made the right decision to continue coaching.

“No, I don’t think he has and I know some people say sport and politics shouldn’t mix ... I think sport should be a force for good, for human capacity and human excellence and enjoyment and participation. I have a real problem with sport when it is under the remit of an apartheid regime and where genocide is being committed.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly strongly criticised her comments.

“I think it was very wrong of Mary Lou McDonald to single out any individual. Is she now going to give a list of Irish people working in Israel and say they all need to come home? Are we going to look at all the Irish people working in Israel and say, ‘You need to come home’? Are we going to look at Israelis working here and say, ‘You’re not welcome’? We’re absolutely not going to do that.”

The Maccabi Tel Aviv role is Mr Keane’s first top managerial position. It follows his stint as assistant to Sam Allardyce at Leeds United from May to June this year, when the duo failed to prevent the club’s relegation from the Premier League.

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times