McDonald will not seek Stanley’s resignation from Public Accounts Committee

Sinn Féin leader plays down party member visiting activist critical about tweets

Brian Stanley is to make a statement to the Dáil regarding controversial tweets he sent. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Brian Stanley is to make a statement to the Dáil regarding controversial tweets he sent. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that she will not be asking party TD Brian Stanley to resign as chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

Ms McDonald said the committee discharges and important function and that he should stay on to oversee it. Members of the PAC have told The Irish Times that they will wait to see what Mr Stanley says in an upcoming personal statement to the Dáil before making a judgement. Mr Stanley is due to make a statement next week on recent controversial tweets.

Ms McDonald has also sought to play down an incident where a party member called to the door of a young activist in light of critical tweets she had sent.

Christine O’Mahony, a member of UCD Ógra Sinn Féin, resigned from the party after a Sinn Féin member called to her house in Co Meath to tell her to delete tweets that were critical of the party. Ms O’Mahony was also told not to discuss internal issues in public.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the opening of an affordable family home scheme in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the opening of an affordable family home scheme in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said Ms O’Mahony had experienced “very heavy-handed” behaviour.

“It is intimidating to that young person to have someone calling to the house. It represents the sort of cult of control within Sinn Féin. It is not a normal democratic party in the sense that pressure is put on individual members of the party to conform at all costs.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne radio show, Ms McDonald said “anybody can criticise Sinn Féin, I am often critical of the party myself. There is nobody trying to censor anybody.

“Somebody from Clare’s cumann called to her home. I know everyone in my cumann, they all know me. I wouldn’t think twice about knocking on a cumann member’s door. Obviously in this case exception was taken to somebody knocking on the door but I can’t allow you to create an entirely false perception that some anonymous unknown figure landed on anyone’s door.”

Ms McDonald said she knows who the person is who called to Ms O’Mahony. “This person is a local person who is known to all of the members and was elected to the position that they hold.”

When asked if it was the case that she had no issue with what happened, the Sinn Féin leader said: “I would have a huge issue with anybody going to anybody’s doors and instructing anybody that they can’t be critical. My understanding is that the knock to the door was to say obviously there is upset here, there is a problem here. There are internal mechanisms through which this can be addressed, that is all.”

Ms O’Mahony had criticised Brian Stanley for a 2017 tweet about Leo Varadkar which appeared to refer to the Fine Gael leader’s sexuality.

Mr Stanley, who initially defended the comment before deleting his social media accounts late last week, had tweeted: “yippee 4 d tory. it’s Leo. U can do what u like in bed but don’t look 4 a pay rise the next morning.”

Tweets

Ms McDonald said that first she “could not fathom” why he had sent it but then she said it had to be viewed in context of it being sent on the day Mr Varadkar became Fine Gael party leader.

Mr Stanley is currently taking a week off before making a personal statement to the Dáil next week.

Ms McDonald said she had asked Mr Stanley to take a week’s break because she “was concerned for his welfare and wanted him to have some breathing space”.

She said there was no equivalence between Mr Stanley’s first tweet and the controversy where Leo Varadkar leaked a document to a friend.

In the first online message that caused controversy, the Laois-Offaly TD tweeted in reference to the Kilmichael Ambush in 1920 and the Narrow Water Massacre in Warrenpoint, Co Down in 1979, claiming they were “the 2 IRA operations that taught the elite of d British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners”.

Ms McDonald said Mr Stanley had apologised for this but she said the actual problem was the “tone”.

“Tone is everything. I think the reality is that recognition and recall of ambushes in the course of the War of Independence and beyond, these are matters that are marked and commented on, and yes the tone was the problem.”

She said there isn’t a single shared view in Ireland about the country’s history.

When Ms McDonald mentioned Tom Barry, the architect of the Kilmichael ambush during the War of Independence, presenter Claire Byrne said when he was asked to support IRA operations in the 1970s and hunger strikers in the 1980s, he refused to because he felt an organisation that planted bombs in public places was not one that he could support.

Ms McDonald responded: “You’re right. As I understand it Tom Barry did have a problem with bombs in public places and the injury of civilians, he would not be alone in that.”

When asked if she does, she said: “Of course I do, of course, of course I do. Who would not? As a matter of fact I have a problem much more generally around the fact that anyone was hurt or injured and I’ve said many times before if I had written the book of Irish history it would look very different. But I didn’t.”