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Mary Lou's cheerio to credibility standing by her main man

"I'm looking for Cheerios and a united Ireland!"

This was the brilliant soundbite used by Mary Lou McDonald in a recent television documentary as she wheeled her supermarket trolley through the breakfast cereal aisle.

It perfectly captured the dual image that Sinn Fein's deputy leader tries to portray - a true-green republican who is also completely unthreatening and down to earth.

Now the mask is starting to slip.

By defending Gerry Adams's twisted joke about holding the editor of the Irish Independent at gunpoint, Mary Lou has proved herself to be as morally bankrupt as any member of the Republican movement that she hopes to lead one day.

We already knew McDonald was an apologist for IRA killers - now it seems that she shares her leader's contempt for a free press too.

Adams's sinister threat was not just a slip of the tongue.

He used this dodgy Michael Collins anecdote to get a cheap laugh at Sinn Fein's elite $500-a-plate fundraiser in New York last week and then repeated it on his blog.

It was clearly aimed at a newspaper group that regularly exposes criminals, political and non-political - and has seen two of its journalists murdered by thugs who could not handle the truth.


If Enda Kenny, Joan Burton or any other party leader had made such a disgraceful remark, their colleagues would immediately denounce it as bang out of order.

As the events of recent weeks have proved yet again, however, Sinn Fein is anything but a normal party.

Adams still runs his troops as a private army, demanding (and receiving) strict military discipline - just as the US president Lyndon Johnson wanted colleagues loyal enough to "kiss my ass and tell me it smells like roses".

Today the Dail begins a debate on the Sinn Fein sex abuse scandal, which will oblige Mary Lou to stand by her man once again.

There is no reason to think that this will cost her any sleep tonight, as McDonald clearly believes that attack is the best form of defence.

Mary Lou famously once tried to crack a joke about the Fawlty Towers character Manuel, but could not remember his name.

Even so, she can do an uncanny impression of the Spanish waiter's most famous line, "I know nothing!"

She admits that some Provo paedophiles were spirited into the Republic of Ireland, but apparently has no information about who they were or where they are now.

Assuming this is true, why is Mary Lou not banging the table and trying to find out whether there are IRA sex criminals still at large?


The answer seems depressingly obvious. She is too afraid to do anything that might hurt her chances of succeeding Adams whenever his ego allows him to retire.

Instead, Mary Lou continues to give a masterclass in the art of speaking from both sides of her mouth.

She claims to represent a new generation of peaceful young Shinners, but insists that IRA volunteers were "decent people".

She recently u-turned by refusing to pay her water charges, but was happy to let the party stump up €4,000 for her to fly business class to Australia, claiming the trip was extremely successful.

She thinks the Independent Group should lighten up when her boss jokes about pointing a loaded gun at its staff - but lost all sense of humour last week over a Unionist MP scoffing at the Irish language.

McDonald has just blown her latest chance to stand up for human decency.

As a result, to misquote the old country song, it's a case of hello, Mary Lou, cheerio, credibility.