'You do not want this virus', says recovering Mary Lou

Sinn Fein leader's ordeal at 'being very unwell for weeks'

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald celebrates with her supporters after being elected in February

Cormac McQuinn

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has become the latest high-profile person in Irish public life to be struck down by the coronavirus.

She confirmed last night she had tested positive for Covid-19, having been off the political stage in recent weeks.

And she warned: "You do not want to get this virus."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party were among politicians to wish her well in her recovery.

Ms McDonald joins other well-known people including broadcasters Claire Byrne, Ryan Tubridy and Dr Ciara Kelly to have caught the virus.


Mary Lou McDonald in her video yesterday

Sinn Fein had been at the forefront of calling for tougher restrictions in the early weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.

The party postponed some of the public meetings it had planned after the election.

One of the first cases of coronavirus in the country led to the closure of Ms McDonald's children's school at the start of March.

The Dublin Central TD missed a Dail sitting earlier this month, tweeting at the time she was "under the weather" and staying at home while "taking all necessary precautions".

Ms McDonald was tested for coronavirus on March 28, but only got the results on Monday. In a video message she said her doctor told her she was no longer infected or infectious, and added: "This is a great relief after weeks of being very unwell."

Ms McDonald also said she had a setback in her recovery at the weekend after developing post-viral pleurisy in her right lung.

"I am on medication and responding very well and fully expect to be back at work next Monday," she said.

Ms McDonald thanked medical staff and carers and said: "My thoughts and solidarity are with everyone who is sick at this time.

"My sympathy is with every bereaved family. I am heartbroken for you.

"My appeal to everyone is to stay safe, stay home and stay apart. You do not want to get this virus.

She thanked people for their good wishes, adding: "Your kindness is much appreciated and I'll be back next week. There is much work to be done. Ireland must change for the better."

Mr Varadkar tweeted last night that he was wishing Ms McDonald well in her recovery.

He said: "Our thoughts today and every day are with all those affected by Covid-19, with all those sick or recovering and with the bereaved who have lost loved ones and friends."

Mr Martin wished her a "full and speedy recovery".

Elsewhere, it was revealed that 533,000 people are now receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), having lost their jobs due to the emergency shutdown of the country.

This is in addition to the 210,000 people who were already unemployed.

By far the largest proportion of the group receiving PUP - nearly 28pc or 152,700 people - is in Dublin.

That is followed by Cork on 10pc or 55,600 people.

Nationwide, 115,500 people have at least temporarily lost jobs in the accommodation and food-services sectors, while 81,400 workers from the wholesale, retail and repair of motor vehicle sectors are also in receipt of PUP.

More than 71,000 construction workers are receiving the payment.

It has also emerged that more than 1,700 people denied the emergency payment in error have received an apology from the Department of Social Protection.


Senior government official Liz Canavan said the department mistakenly issued an email to some applicants for the payment, suggesting they were not entitled to it and that they would not be getting a further payment.

"As soon as the department became aware of the issue, it carried out an investigation and it has determined the source of the error," she said. "It has apologised to these individuals for the error and the distress it caused them."

She said the 1,700-plus people involved had been emailed to reassure them the payment would continue.

Ms Canavan said there was still a small number of people who had entered incorrect PPS or Iban numbers in their PUP applications.

The department is said to be contacting them to obtain the correct information so the payment can be made.

Ms Canavan said the number of applications submitted online through MyWelfare.ie was still increasing.

She said 42,000 employers had now signed up to the separate temporary wage subsidy scheme and that €199m had been paid out so far.