Thursday 17 October 2019

Compare and contrast: Mary Lou on Ansbacher accounts - and on Slab

Mary Lou McDonald .Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald .Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Mary-Lou McDonald is one of the more eloquent Dáil performers and she rarely pulls her punches.

But consistency has not always been the most remarkable attribute of her contributions.

She can be devastating while excoriating the misdeeds of others - but strangely reticent when it comes to matters close to Sinn Féin. It all makes for a curious contrast.

The Dublin Central TD was very strident indeed when it came to condemning the Catholic Church's mishandling of child sex abuse cases.

When the nation reeled from the horrific reports of child abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin in November 2009, she did not mince words. She said anyone found to have covered up the abuse of children must face the full rigours of the law.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader was less sure of her ground in October 2014 when Mairia Cahill, the grandniece of IRA commander Joe Cahill, told her story of rape and its aftermath, which left many leading republicans with serious questions to answer.

Ms McDonald again said anyone engaging in a cover-up should face the full rigours of the law - but that her party, Sinn Féin, had not engaged in such a cover-up.

Spool on another six weeks from that less-than-assured response to Mairia Cahill, and we find Ms McDonald using Dáil privilege to read out names cited by a whistleblower relating to investigations into tax-dodging via bogus offshore bank accounts. She said the unnamed whistleblower alleged former ministers Des O'Malley - the Progressive Democrats founder - Ray MacSharry, Gerard Collins, and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn - all prominent in Fianna Fáil - and Richie Ryan of Fine Gael were all on the list, as well as someone named as "an S Barrett", among others.

All of those named in the Dáil steadfastly denied the assertions, and some spoke of how the unfounded allegations had hurt them and their families.

The Dáil's Committee on Procedure and Privileges ruled that Ms McDonald had abused Dáil privilege - but in practice they had no powers to take the matter any further.

The Government insisted that a senior civil servant's investigation into the offshore accounts had run from 1998 until 2004, when it was wound up without reaching a conclusion. Other investigations proved similarly fruitless.

Ms McDonald remained notably silent on the issue of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy for four solid days last week and ignored media requests for comment.

Yesterday, she broke her silence and responded to some questions from this newspaper.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader remained unrepentant about her use of Dáil privilege. She again insisted that the investigation by civil servants should be allowed continue.

However, Ms McDonald had a great deal less to say about the case of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.

"Everyone has a duty to pay their taxes in full. Full stop. That includes good republicans like Mr Thomas Murphy.

"It is strange that the case was referred to the Special Criminal Court. That is not the norm on dealing with cases of tax evasion," her statement read. So, there you have it in a nutshell.

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy is a good republican who should have paid his taxes - but it's rather odd that he should be dealt with by the Special Criminal Court.

Irish Independent

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