Mary Lou McDonald stands over Ansbacher comments

Sinn Féin TD denies she abused Dáil privilege by naming former politicians

Names in a dossier of former politicians who allegedly held offshore accounts have been read into the Dál record by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

 

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she stands over her decision to use Dáil privilege to name former politicians who were accused of having offshore bank accounts to evade tax.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe said this week that he would write to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett recommending a motion of censure against Ms McDonald.

The Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) previously ruled that the Sinn Féin TD’s use of Dáil privilege to name six prominent politicians last December was an abuse.

“I absolutely refute any suggestion that I abused Dáil privilege,” Ms McDonald said on Tuesday.

“I have said from the word go that I exercised in a very mindful, thoughtful and responsible way the Dáil privilege afforded to me within the Constitution.”

Ms McDonald’s intervention last December came after a serving civil servant sent the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) a dossier setting out allegations that former ministers had used Ansbacher accounts to evade tax.

The Revenue Commissioners has informed the PAC that all files drawn up by the civil servant, Gerard Ryan, had been fully examined and followed up.

The CPP ruled last month that Ms McDonald was in breach of Dáil standing orders by making allegations against people who were not members of the House. It wrote to the Sinn Féin TD asking her to withdraw her remarks.

Speaking today at the launch of Sinn Féin’s campaign for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum, Ms McDonald said the dossier raised issues of “the most grave public concern” and that the Government should establish a “transparent investigative procedure” to look into the claims.

“In the manner of my use of privilege I was fully compliant with standing orders and I did it in a way that was solely and exclusively driven by the public interest and the seriousness of the allegations made,” she said.

“I will of course defend my own standing and reputation. I stand over the decision that I made.”

Ms McDonald said there was “no merit or reason” for any motion of censure against her, adding: “Out in what I would call the real world, there is I think a certain sense of concern that such a harsh commentary has been adopted by political insiders in respect of me and that that contrasts quite dramatically with the lack of commentary in respect of other public figures or political figures, now or in the past, who in the real world people would judge to have caused real damage to people’s lives, to their livelihoods, to their standard of living.”

She told reporters that if the facts were established and it transpired that the individuals in question did not have offshore bank accounts, she would have no difficulty in apologising to them.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the party stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Ms McDonald.

She had a mandate, was a “very, very good parliamentarian” and was “not guilty of any abuse of privilege,” he said.