Monday 5 December 2016

Tanaiste blasts SF deputy Mary Lou McDonald for her 'grandstanding' and 'stunt politics' on Ansbacher dossier

Published 15/04/2015 | 15:04

Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton
Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton

Tanaiste Joan Burton has blasted Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald for her "grandstanding" and "stunt politics" in the Dail over the Ansbacher dossier controversy.

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Ms Burton said Ms McDonald should "reflect" on her decision to name former politicians as allegedly having off shore accounts for the purpose of tax evasion.

Ms McDonald was found last week to have 'abused her Dail privilege' in naming the politicians.

Speaking at an event in Dublin, the Labour leader was severely critical of Ms McDonald's actions.

Read more: Fianna Fail will not table motion against Mary Lou McDonald

"I think Mary Lou ought to reflect. I think some of her comments and the way she grandstanded in the Dail in relation to naming people and she should reflect on the hurt and the damage she has done to particular individuals," the Tanaiste said.

"Deputy McDonald should reflect on this. We will hear the Ceann Comhairle's views but the protection of the freedom to comment absolutely in the Dail is a really important one in our democracy and that is why it is in our constitution," she said.

"This is part of stunt politics. the constitution is slightly above stunts.  It is a really critical freedom to be able to march into the Dail, speak our minds and name names as appropriate. No one wants to interfere in any that fundamental freedom," Ms Burton added.

Asked about whether she would support a motion of censure against Ms McDonald, Ms Burton said such a motion of censure is a matter in the first instance most likely for the Ceann Comhairle.

"I think we need to hear his view. The whole idea of the freedom that TDs have to go into Leinster House and speak without fear is absolutely fundamental to our democracy. But it is something that has to be exercised with due care and caution," she said.

"But it is one thing to that but it is another thing to waltz into the Dail with a document in your hand and coming from a committee that she is a member of and she had plenty of opportunity there to do whatever she wanted in that committee," she added.

"I know if SF were in power tomorrow the last thing they would want would be the kind of freedom that is embedded in the constitution about free speech. We know what happened to people like Mairia Cahill when they sought to speak out. But she ought to reflect and pay attention to what the Ceann Comhairle has to say. I anticipate that he may have something to say," the Tanaiste added.

Separately, Ms Burton also said that some Deis schools have not opted into a school meals programme but that she would listen to any reasonable proposal which would see that situation changed.

"We are spending almost €40m on the school meals programme from my department and I have increased that every year notwithstanding the difficulties with the national finances. So we do have a number of Deis schools who haven't actually applied to be part of the programme."

"I am disappointed that there are some schools who remain outside the scheme, the move has to come from the schools," she said.

She also said that parents will have to wait until after the general election before a second year of pre-school childcare could be delivered upon.

While saying the measure is a "major priority" for her, she said it would form part of any Labour Programme for Government.

"I would expect that that would be part of any Labour Party Programme for Government in the next Government. Obviously, it is costly. There is a study underway by Jan O'Sullivan to look at the quality of the current pre-school year which has been very important for parents," she said

"I have made no secret of the fact  that I would like to see that expanded, but it has to be expanded on quality terms," she added.

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