SIX weeks after she last spoke to the media in Dublin, Mary Lou McDonald broke her long silence at the start of Sinn Féins ard fheis on Saturday’s RDS.
ith the recent controversy surrounding the jailing of former council member Jonathan Dowdall, a new biography raising questions about how she paid for the renovation of her family home, her and other Sinn Féin TD legal battles and Eoin Ó Broin’s comments on the sacking of an official, there was much debate.
Here’s what the Sinn Féin leader had to say:
your childhood home
Faced for the first time with questions about her recently released biography of Shane Ross, McDonald said she is very fortunate to have a family home.
“There are a lot of people who can’t say that. We have one home, our family home in Cabra,” she said.
“We paid for it like all working people pay for their family home, we have a mortgage and we’re still paying it, folks, and we’re going to be paying it for quite a while. That’s it. This is the beginning, the middle and the end.”
When told Ross said the renovation had cost several hundred thousand euros, McDonald said: “He can suggest whatever he wants, it’s my childhood home, the detached house that we have, that we raised our children in, we have a mortgage on it.
“We pay our mortgage, we pay our bills, we pay our taxes, that’s us, like all other working people. That’s it, that’s the story.”
McDonald also turned down the book project of the former cabinet minister, who approached her about working with him last year.
“It’s a bit like when I decide to write a book about the Taoiseach during my summer vacation, then I call him and say, ‘Would you like to cooperate and give me an interview,'” she said dismissively.
She said she told Ross she didn’t think it was a project she would be interested in being involved with. “So he’s aware of that,” she added.
The recent imprisonment of Jonathan Dowdall, a former Sinn Féin councillor, for helping the Hutch gang in the infamous Regency Hotel murder has given the party some unwelcome headlines as he was a McDonald’s colleague in Dublin Central a few years ago was.
The Sinn Féin leader said she was “deeply shocked” to discover Dowdall’s criminal activities, which include a conviction for waterboarding someone else.
Had the party known about all this, she said, “if he hadn’t been around Sinn Féin, he wouldn’t have been around me or anyone else.”
McDonald said she didn’t think Dowdall’s association with Sinn Féin harmed the party as they had “no idea” he was involved in crime.
“This person was once a very respectable person in north inner-city Dublin,” she said.
“So the shock wasn’t just ours, it was widespread, but let me assure you, had we known, it wouldn’t have been around us or in the Sinn Féin party.”
Asked whether political parties should be able to conduct a Garda review of members, McDonald said such an idea was “crazy”.
Eoin Ó Broin and the official
McDonald said she spoke to her housing spokesman following his now-retired comments about the firing of Treasury Department chief economist John McCarthy and said he was “well aware that his comments were not in order” and not the position of represent Sinn Fein.
She said officials are critical that they bring “expertise” to their positions, noting that Sinn Féin officials have been working closely with officials in the North.
“Eoin knows he was wrong,” she said, revealing that McCarthy had accepted Ó Broin’s apology.
The Sinn Féin leader staunchly denied claims that she was a dog-whistle, recently telling the Taoiseach in the Dáil: “Not content to deny our own people the right to an affordable, safe roof over their heads, the government is expanding now their catastrophic failure for those coming to Ireland to seek humanitarian aid.”
She said her concern is that people on waiting lists for social housing, in B&Bs and hotels, people on direct care and Ukrainian refugees are sleeping on the Dublin airport floor. “
I point out that the housing needs of everyone must be considered and that includes people seeking international protection, people coming here to seek refuge and families, some of whom have been there for 10 years, 11 years, 14 years There are waiting lists,” she said, adding, “I’ve never whistled a dog before.”
McDonald and her deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, said the UK government needed clarity on its intentions in Northern Ireland and with Protocol.
“I think people need clarity that we’re not just going to be in an endless stalemate, in an endless limbo,” she said.
O’Neill, the North’s first Minister-designate, was blunt: “I would demand that next week there is actually a very clear statement from the UK Government actually saying what they are going to do next.”
She said it was “madness” that there was no executive in office amid a cost-of-living crisis.
McDonald later said that if the DUP was not prepared to share power, the alternative must be a “Dublin-London partnership agreement”.
She said that the DUP should respect the result of the May general election and nominate for the post of deputy first minister.
O’Neill claimed the DUP was “punishing the public” by not participating in the power-sharing process because it was “no secret” that the party wanted to serve in the position of Deputy First Secretary.
McDonald spoke to the more than 2,000 expected attendees at ard fheis of the “true sense” of Sinn Féin’s potential to lead governments in both the North and South.
“I know that change is very powerful in people’s minds,” she said. “Change is the common denominator across the island.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/sinn-fein-ard-fheis-everything-we-learned-as-mary-lou-mcdonald-breaks-her-silence-42120861.html Sinn Féin ard fheis: Everything We Learned When Mary Lou McDonald Breaks Her Silence