Gerry Adams criticises ‘petulant’ Ceann Comhairle

Sinn Féin leader defends Mary Lou McDonald’s Dáil sit-in and calls for political reform

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has described Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett's conduct during an incident which saw Mary Lou McDonald's refuse to leave the Dáil chamber this week as "unfair and petulant".

At a party conference in Dublin today, Mr Adams said Mr Barrett's behaviour was a further indication of the urgent need for political reform. He again said that he had no confidence in the Ceann Comhairle.

Ms McDonald, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, staged a four hour sit-in in the chamber on Thursday. It came after she refused to follow Mr Barrett’s instructions to leave the chamber, having got into a dispute after claiming her questions to Tánaiste Joan Burton had not been sufficiently addressed.

“The Ceann Comhairle’s treatment of Mary Lou on Thursday was unfair and petulant,” Mr Adams said. “She asked questions legitimate and appropriate about whether water charges would be deducted from the pensions, social welfare and wages of those who cannot pay.”


He added: “And his refusal to return to the Dáil chamber until Mary Lou left was silly, bizarre; especially when she quite rightly sat tight and refused to meekly serve her time.

“The way he wasted Dáil time on the back of the Tanaiste’s opaque, diversionary answers is another example of the urgent need for political reform.”

In a statement this week, Mr Barrett described the incident as "deeply regrettable" and said "it must be clearly understood that it is not my decision that Deputy McDonald leave the House but it is a decision that was taken by the majority by the way of vote."

Nevertheless, the estimated 500 party members attending today’s conference met their president’s remarks on Ms Mc Donald’s defiance with boisterous applause. The conference had been arranged prior to last week’s incidents, officials said, and the media were only permitted access for Mr Adams’s address.

All eyes will be on whether Ms McDonald attempts to re-enter the Dáil on Tuesday following her suspension, a move that would compel Mr Barrett to suspend the sitting once again.

On the issue of the 1916 Rising centenary, Mr Adams said he attended last week’s launch of planned events which he described as a “bizarre evening”.

“Noise...from the anti-water charge protestors [OUTSIDE]drowned out the self serving speeches from the Ministers,” he said.

"The [PROMOTIONAL]video if you haven't seen it - Ireland's 2016 makes no mention of the Easter Rising or of the signatories of the Proclamation," he continued. "If you go by the video, the Government believes that the Rising was about Facebook, Bob Geldof, Bono, David Cameron and the English Queen."

Mr Adams also made reference to the ongoing fallout of the Mairia Cahill sexual abuse controversy, saying it had been treated with political opportunism by other parties.

"In an effort to stem rising public support for Sinn Féin it is clear that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil will employ any dirty trick, any lie and any disgusting allegation," he said.

"That now includes the vile slur that Sinn Féin is involved in the cover up of sexual abuse cases. Despite the tsunami of anti-Sinn Fein propaganda, you people here, the people who vote for us, all the activists and members who are out there should hold your heads high."

He said the party’s commitment is to help victims and survivors and to “honestly face up to any failures in the past”.

“Any abuser within republicanism has done grievous wrong to their victims. They did not do this in our name. They sully our cause.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times