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Mary Lou McDonald faces accusations of diverting attention from Cahill affair

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Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams TD & Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams TD & Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams TD & Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams TD & Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

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Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams TD & Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has been accused of trying to divert attention away from her party's links to sexual abuse after she staged a four-hour sit-in in the Dail.

Ms McDonald, who has been highly damaged by the Mairia Cahill affair, brought Dail business to a halt by refusing to recognise a vote in favour of her suspension.

The Dublin Central TD has been strongly condemned for her behaviour, which was described last night as representing a "disgraceful political stunt".

Both Fine Gael and Labour Party politicians claim Ms McDonald's actions were clearly orchestrated to deflect attention way from Sinn Fein/IRA sexual abuse.

Ms McDonald has been suspended from the Dail until November 21 and will not be paid for the days she is absent. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams launched an extraordinary attack on Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett and said his party no longer has confidence in the Dail chairperson.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the action by Sinn Fein was unprecedented and was a "diversionary stunt" and represented a clear attempt to detract from the "very uncomfortable day" experienced by the party as a result of the Mairia Cahill debate.

Labour TD for Cork South West Michael McCarthy said Ms McDonald's "cynical" actions represent an "assault on the democratic institutions of the Dail."

Fine Gael TD for Dublin North Alan Farrell said the party was guilty of a "disgraceful political stunt" and that this will be clear in the eyes of the public.

"The sit-in ensured that the Dail could not debate important pieces of legislation including the social welfare bill which includes the increase in child benefit and the partial restoration of the Christmas bonus," he said.

His party colleague Patrick O'Donovan added: "It is typical behaviour of a party that cannot confront its own dark issues to try and shut down a debate."

And Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer accused Sinn Fein of using the national parliament as a prop to "deflect attention from the negative media coverage over Sinn Fein's treatment of sexual abuse victims".

The farcical scenes unfolded following heated exchanges between Tanaiste Joan Burton and Ms McDonald at Leaders' Questions. Ms McDonald became enraged after the Labour party leader did not address specific questions over water charges.

The Sinn Fein politician then refused to take her seat - prompting the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the house pending a vote.

The majority of TDs voted to eject Ms McDonald but she refused to leave.

Ms McDonald remained in her seat for several hours before finally leaving to address the media.

She said her actions were not a stunt and added that her questions were not answered by Ms Burton. She said that the Government had been "aided and abetted by the Ceann Comhairle" in this matter.

In a statement last night, the Ceann Comhairle described the incident as "deeply regrettable" but pointed out that the majority of TDs voted to suspend Ms McDonald.

Earlier, Ms McDonald was forced to deny that she "smirked" at Ms Cahill in the vicinity of Leinster House during the debate on sexual abuse.

Irish Independent