Ní Riada defends McDonald: ‘I wonder would a male get the same criticism?’

Defeated Sinn Féin MEP says people need to give party leader time to ‘find her feet’

Defeated Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has defended party leader Mary Lou McDonald following poor showings by Sinn Féin in both the local and European elections and questioned whether a male leader of the party would be subjected to the same criticism.

The Ireland South candidate said Ms McDonald had "big shoes to fill" when she succeeded Gerry Adams but she believed that she had done a good job to date but people needed to remember that she hasn't been that long in the job and needs more time to put her own mark on the position.

“As Mary Lou says herself you can’t just be a fair weather leader - you have to be a leader that goes through the good times and the bad times. Mary Lou has only been a leader for a very short time - I wonder if it was a male counterpart would they get the same amount of criticism in such a short time.

“I think she is open to far more criticism than she deserves and I wonder if it was a male would they get the same level of criticism - people should sit back and give her a chance to find her feet and give her time to get the party more in form in terms of cohesion to bring us into a brighter future.”


Ms Ní Riada was speaking at the Ireland South Count Centre at Nemo Rangers GAA complex in Cork as count staff were distributing her 98,379 and while she was grateful to everyone who came out to vote for her, she acknowledged Sinn Féin appeared to have suffered from low turn out in working class areas.

“You have to wonder why working class people don’t turn out to vote when they are the ones that are most effected by some of the policies that are being implemented - I think people probably thinking ‘ye are all the same, nothing is going to change,’ not realising the change is going to come at the ballot box.”

Ms Ní Riada said that it is up to politicians and parties to get out and convince voters on the door step of the importance of voting and establish a reconnection with them as many people, particularly with regard to Europe, feel it has nothing to do with them.

“One of the things I found really disheartening was there were 20,000 ballot papers that weren’t filled in the European elections -that meant people actually came to the ballot box and didn’t put in the number- 20,000 people is an awful lot - analysis has to done on that so we have democracy working at its best.”

Ms Ní Riada said that she found losing her seat personally very disappointing but she found it even more disappointing for her team of seven office staff both in Brussels and Cork who had worked tirelessly for her over the last five years and she thanked them for their contribution to her work.

She refused to be drawn on her own immediate future and whether she might consider running in the next General Election and said her immediate focus was reconnecting with her family who had been very supportive of her work as an MEP and her campaign to get re-elected.

"No doubt people will forgive me for taking time out and regrouping with my family who have been tremendous support - I have exams going on with Junior Cert and Leaving Cert so like all other mammies out there, that is my priority at the moment and we will see in due course," she said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times