Saturday 10 December 2016

Cormac McQuinn: Mystery man takes Mary Lou to task in street battle

Published 20/02/2016 | 02:30

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald is tackled by a businessman on her party’s pension policy on Grafton Street yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald is tackled by a businessman on her party’s pension policy on Grafton Street yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was tackled by a businessman on her party’s pension policy on Grafton Street yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

There was one question on the lips of reporters at Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald's press conference - who was the mystery man who hijacked the whole thing?

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It all started in the usual way. Ms McDonald was on Grafton Street outlining how her party would scrap water charges, and she was asked about Gerry Adams's two 'car crash' RTÉ interviews.

"Anybody can fumble a figure," was her take on Mr Adams's apparent difficulty outlining his party's plans for extra tax on those paid more than €100,000.

It was then that the mystery man made his move.

"You're going to kill pensions for middle income people," he claimed.

"No, we won't," Ms McDonald replied.

"Have you seen the figures or can your leader do the maths?" he asked.

She asked who he was and he replied: "A concerned citizen."

"I'm apolitical but I won't be voting for Sinn Féin," he added.

"That's fine. That's your prerogative," Ms McDonald said.

He accused the Dublin Central candidate of wanting to "punish" people "who work hard and try and make a life for themselves".

"No I don't," she replied.

"You certainly do. Where the State loses more when someone is made unemployed than the person loses, there's something wrong there. When you pay 59pc tax?" the man countered.

Ms McDonald replied: "What I am saying to you is you have to look at the proposals in the round. I understand that not all of our proposals will be universally popular. It's not universally popular to say that you want a third tax band."

It was then that she had a 'figure fumble' herself, saying there would be an "additional €7 in every cent over the hundred grand for people who earn that". She meant an additional 7c on every euro.

"Our position is people with deeper pockets, people who have a greater ability to pay, yes, have to pay a bit more and I'm sorry if that upsets you but I'm being honest and I'm telling you that that is the lie of the land.

"If other political parties were honest they would tell you the same thing."

The man said: "The best way for this country is to give young people opportunities."

"Absolutely," Ms McDonald said. It was perhaps the only thing they agreed on but it didn't last long.

The man said he didn't support any political party.

"Really?" Ms McDonald asked.

"Yeah, really," he replied.

He said he "probably will be voting Fine Gael" because of their policy on USC.

"They're abolishing it," Ms McDonald said, adding: "It's €4bn off the balance sheet so good luck when you go to your local hospital."

"You want to talk about the hospitals? You're talking about someone whose had personal experience and I can't see Sinn Féin sorting that out," the man replied.

He declined to give his name when asked by reporters, saying: "I've no interest in talking" but said he runs a small business. "Sinn Féin annoy me by the way they go around and I just felt so incensed about it," he said and stalked off down Grafton Street.

Ms McDonald returned to her press conference. "We had a lively exchange there with a citizen," she said wryly. "And it comes as no surprise that somebody who is a Fine Gael voter, supporter or who thinks that way, won't be voting for Sinn Féin. I don't think that's any great surprise."

As she brushed off the encounter, everyone else was left wondering: who was that mystery man?

Irish Independent

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