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Dail suspended three times as Joan and Mary Lou clash again


Joan Burton

Joan Burton

Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

Joan Burton

SINN Fein has been forced into a climbdown over its demand that Tanaiste Joan Burton withdraw her claims that the republican movement has struggled to deal with issues of paedophilia and sexual abuse.

Dail business was suspended on three occasions yesterday after several Sinn Fein politicians angrily accused Ms Burton of casting a slur on the party.

The spat comes two weeks after Deputy McDonald staged a four-and-a-half hour sit-in, refusing to leave the Dail chamber after she complained that the Tanaiste did not answer her questions on Irish Water.


Yesterday's heated scenes unfolded during Leaders' Questions, which saw Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald highlight the alleged sexual abuse carried out by suspected paedophile Domhnall O Lubhlai.

The Irish language activist, who died in March of last year, was accused in the Dail yesterday of being involved in abusing up to 100 boys.

O Lubhlai faced 56 charges of sexual abuse involving 11 victims in 2002, however, the case never proceeded following a legal challenge.

A review into allegations made against O Lubhlai was ordered last year by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

The report was sent to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald in July, Sinn Fein claimed yesterday.

Ms McDonald used her Dail speaking time to name one of O Lubhlai's alleged victims, Gearoid O Concubhair.

She claimed that Mr O Concubhair has sought a copy of the review but that he has not received a satisfactory response.

Ms McDonald asked Ms Burton why the review has not yet been published.

The Tanaiste said that she did not have the specific information at hand and urged Ms McDonald to raise the matter with the Department of Justice.

But after the issue involving the Irish College founder was raised by Ms McDonald, Joan Burton immediately turned the spotlight back on the republican movement.

She emphasised repeatedly O Lubhlai's strong links to republicanism.

The Labour Party leader then incensed several Sinn Fein TDs by saying that "paedophilia and child abuse" has been a "problem" within the republican movement.

"We know from the discussion previously, and by the acknowledgements of your party, that there has been a problem of paedophilia and sex abuse, particularly of children, in the republican movement and cover-ups," Ms Burton said.

At one point during the exchanges, Sinn Fein TDs Pearse Doherty and Aengus O Snodaigh pointed and shouted aggressively at the Government benches.

Mr O Snodaigh also accused the Ceann Comhairle of bias.

The Dail was suspended for 10 minutes after Sinn Fein TD Sandra McLellan accused Ms Burton of being a "disgrace".

After the suspension, Mr O Snodaigh asked that the remarks by Ms Burton be withdrawn. But Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said that no slur was made.

Sinn Fein would not accept the Ceann Comhairle's account and caused two further disruptions.

During the intervals, the party's TDs examined a transcript of the Dail exchanges.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who this week claimed that names of alleged abusers were posted in the letter box, was not present.


After Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett returned for a third time, Mr O Snodaigh said the party would not delay the house any further.

The Garda Press Office said last night: "The injured parties in this case who came forward were fully informed of the results of the review back in July. There has been ongoing contact with the injured parties and they have been offered personal meetings with a detective inspector to discuss their concerns."