Tuesday 19 March 2019

New Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou under fire for 'ill-judged' words

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald has been criticised for using the phrase "tiocfaidh ar la" to rally supporters as she assumed the leadership of Sinn Fein.

The Dublin Central TD took over unopposed from Gerry Adams on Saturday after his more than three decades in charge of the party.

She concluded her speech before more than 2,000 party faithful in the RDS by exclaiming: "Up the rebels, agus tiocfaidh ar la."

The phase, long associated with the Provisional IRA, means "our day will come".

Her remarks were criticised last night by politicians on both sides of the border, and her use of the divisive phrase arguably overshadowed parts of her address that spoke of the need for reconciliation.

Fianna Fail TD Darragh O'Brien said her words were "ill-judged" as sensitive talks continue to re-establish power- sharing with unionists in the North.

"Comments like that really hark back to a very dark time in the island's history when many people were murdered by the Provisional IRA," he added.

He argued that they are "very unhelpful" amid the ongoing negotiations in the North.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said unionists were dis- appointed by the speech because they had no high hopes for it.

However, he said it was "a missed opportunity to deliver change", adding that Ms McDonald spoke of fresh-thinking and bold ideas "but ended with the same, stale rhetoric".


Last night, Sinn Fein said criticism of Ms McDonald's remarks was "nit-picking" and maintained it was "a tremendous speech".

A statement said that "any fair analysis" showed she spoke of "reaching out to our unionist neighbours and respecting each other's beliefs and traditions".

Ms McDonald said yesterday that she hopes the power-sharing institutions in the North can be re-established and thinks her party can do business with DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Theresa May will join the talks in Belfast today.

Ms McDonald did a series of broadcast interviews yesterday. Speaking on Sky News, she rejected suggestions that she will be Mr Adams' puppet and she also insisted that "the IRA has gone away".

"The war is over and Sinn Fein is a fully-formed, independent, democratic political party," she said.

She also took a swipe at Mr Varadkar, describing him as "smarmy".

The pair have previously clashed, with Mr Varadkar saying she is "cranky".

Ms McDonald referred to Mr Varadkar's penchant for novelty socks and his reference to the film Love Actually during his first visit to Downing Street last year.

"Leo is kind of smarmy," she said.

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