Sunday 22 September 2019

Varadkar quizzes SF on 'senior republicans' influence

Mary Lou McDonald: ‘Wants to revive power-sharing’
Mary Lou McDonald: ‘Wants to revive power-sharing’
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has directly asked whether Mary Lou McDonald takes direction from "senior republicans" in her role as Sinn Féin leader.

The comments came in Dáil exchanges, with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin combining with the Taoiseach to criticise Sinn Féin for failing to provide a nationalist voice in the Brexit crisis.

The Taoiseach said he followed proceedings of the Northern Ireland public inquiry into the so-called "cash for ash scheme" which caused the collapse of the Belfast power-sharing government in January 2017.

He was surprised to learn that Sinn Féin had a greater role than was earlier realised.

He pointed to emails, unearthed in the inquiry, from then Sinn Féin finance minister in Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Mr Ó Muilleoir had at one point emailed "a senior republican", Ted Howell, who did not hold any elected office, seeking clearance to sign-off for a business plan related to the heating scheme by the following Wednesday.

"That is documentary evidence that Sinn Féin ministers seek approval and consent from senior republicans when it comes to major decisions in government," Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

"I'm just curious to know if Deputy McDonald would want to comment on that, or expand on that, and maybe inform us of the extent she and her front bench requires approval from senior republicans for decisions," the Taoiseach added.

The Sinn Féin leader said the Taoiseach should await publication of the full report on the controversial Northern Ireland heat scheme. She said it would record "the central role of the DUP in the affair".

Ms McDonald accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of "playing politics" with the North's current problems and said the Government had an obligation under the Good Friday Agreement to be impartial.

She also argued that Sinn Féin continues to represent the people in the North, unlike the other two parties.

Ms McDonald said wants she to revive power-sharing.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section