Irish Republican News · November 15, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dáil boils over


Sinn Fein’s Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald staged a sit-in that lasted almost four hours in the Dublin parliament this week as frayed tempers finally erupted.

The animosity the political establishment in the 26 Counties has for the left-wing opposition has escalated since hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against new charges for water supply.

Adding to the political temperature this week was the embarrassing launch of official commemorations to mark the 1916 Rising, and increasingly desperate allegations of an ‘abuse cover-up’ against Sinn Fein.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour -- traditionally the strongest parties in the State -- have all seen their poll ratings decline sharply in recent years, and now win the combined support of less than half of voters in the state. But there is a belief that a general election could take place much sooner than its scheduled date in Spring 2016. This has been linked to the increasingly bizarre allegations against the Sinn Fein leadership.


One example of this saw Gerry Adams, after a light-hearted comment he made at a New York fundraising event last week, forced to deny threatening the editor of the Independent newspaper group.

Adams referred to a historical period when the Irish Independent of the day called for the leaders of the 1916 Rising to be executed, and described how Michael Collins dealt with the critical press, when the War of Independence hero sent a gunman to the paper’s offices. This was taken by the suggestible Independent Newspaper to mean the same fate awaited the current editor.

And Mary Lou McDonald was forced to deny having “smirked” at a west Belfast woman who has alleged that an IRA Volunteer abused her as a 16 year old. Mairia Cahill accused the Dublin TD of “smirking” in her direction when the women came face to face in the Leinster House parliament on Wednesday.

Ms McDonald told RTE radio that the women’s paths had crossed “momentarily” outside the chamber. “I smiled at her. Anybody who has ever met me ever in any set of circumstances knows that it’s fairly standard of me to smile. I smile easily. If that was interpreted by Mairia as a smirk, I apologise to her.”


But the Irish body politic remains polarised by Cahill’s allegations, which dominated the media earlier this month. The conservative parties again this week in the Dail loudly expressed the conviction, without supporting evidence, that abusers had been “moved around” Ireland by the Provisional IRA, in the same manner that the Catholic church transferred offending priests from diocese to diocese.

They majored on the issue in the Dail debate on Wednesday, with dramatised and emotive speeches focused on repeating the line of “Sinn Fein abuse”. Media groups such as the Irish Independent, Irish Times and RTE have also used the issue to attack the rise of the party. There has been no coverage in the media of the reality of events in the North during the conflict, when the Provisional IRA were well known to publicly shame, exile and/or subject abusers to punishment shootings in their areas, with full community support.

Gerry Adams accused the government parties and Fianna Fail of holding the extraordinary five-hour Dail debate for electoral purposes. He again rejected allegations of a “cover-up”, and said the IRA investigation had been recast as “a cover-up by Sinn Fein and then from that into a charge that we facilitated sex abusers. I reject these charges. They are not true.”

Mr Adams said that in all of the debate, “the alleged abuser, the alleged rapist, Mairia’s uncle, seems to have been forgotten about. Amid it all the person who is charged with abusing this young woman seems to have been just disappeared, no word about that.”

He also accused the government of hypocrisy in dealing with the issue of sexual abuse. He said a “succession of damning reports all exposed the extent to which the Catholic hierarchy and successive governments of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour parties were involved in the institutional abuse of tens of thousands of children over decades, or the cover-up of this abuse”.


On Thursday, however, the spotlight was on the failure of the Labour leader to deliver a response to questions on the issue water charges. Tanaiste [Deputy Prime Minister] Joan Burton repeatedly failed to say whether her government would take the charges from non-payers directly from pay packets and social welfare payments.

A dramatic stand-off ensured when the Sinn Fein deputy leader refused to give way until the question was answered by Burton.

Having failed to resume her seat the speaker of the house, Sean Barrett, ordered McDonald to leave the chamber. She refused. Barrett suspended the Dail and then refused to return to the chamber until McDonald left, before eventually adjourning the house until Tuesday.

Fianna Fail chief whip Sean O Fearghail described the impromptu sit-in as an attempt to distract public attention from “recent negative activity” of Sinn Fein.

However, Adams expressed his support for his deputy leader in a statement, saying she had been “voicing the concerns of countless thousands of citizens”.

“The central tenet of parliamentary democracy is for the opposition to hold the executive to account. This does not happen in the Dail,” he said.

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