Mary Lou McDonald accused of damaging reputation of Dáil

Adams says Sinn Féin will consider motion of no confidence against Ceann Comhairle

A week of bitter exchanges between Sinn Féin and rival parties descended into chaos and farce yesterday when deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald staged a four-hour sit-in in the Dáil after being suspended.

Amid claims from other parties that Sinn Féin was pulling a stunt to divert attention from the harsh criticism it faced in the Dáil over the Maíria Cahill case, Sinn Féin insisted the protest was “spontaneous”.

For her part, Ms McDonald asserted that Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett had acted “absolutely deplorably” in suspending her from the House. Ms McDonald had refused to take her seat after an exchange with Tánaiste Joan Burton during Leaders’ Questions.

Later yesterday afternoon, Mr Barrett re-entered the chamber and suspended the House until Tuesday to avoid what he described as "further reputational damage to the institution". It is understood Ms McDonald has been formally suspended from the Dáil until November 19th.


Other parties claimed the protest was not genuine but a pre-planned tactic to reclaim the agenda after the party had received bruising criticism for the manner in which republicans had handled the Cahill and other sex abuse cases.

‘Diversionary tactic’


chief whip

Emmet Stagg

said it was a “diversionary tactic” to take control of the agenda after what had happened the day before. His

Fianna Fáil

counterpart Seán Ó Fearghaíl claimed Sinn Féin had a clear agenda to “adopt a disruptive approach” to distract from the negative coverage of the Cahill case.

He said he did not agree with the order to expel her from the House but condemned her protest as a "ridiculous time-wasting exercise". However, Ms McDonald rejected that assertion. Party leader Gerry Adams said he had no confidence in Mr Barrett and said the party might consider bringing such a motion before the Dáil.

As her Leaders' Questions slot came to an end Ms McDonald claimed Tánaiste Joan Burton had refused to answer her questions on how water charge defaulters would be pursued. Ms Burton had told the Sinn Féin TD she would not know the answers to the questions until the Government unveiled its revised plans for water charges next week.

When the Ceann Comhairle called on Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan to ask the next question, Ms McDonald claimed Ms Burton had not answered her question.

In a brief but heated exchange with Mr Barrett, she refused to take her seat and then refused to leave the House.


The Ceann Comhairle then proposed a vote for her suspension which was carried by 64 votes to 43. Ms McDonald maintained her refusal to leave the House and was supported by party TDs including

Mr Adams


An hour later, Ms Burton went into the chamber to collect her papers and was involved in a terse exchange with Sinn Féin deputies who accused her of refusing to answer the questions.

She replied they had refused to answer questions the previous day about the handling by republicans of sex abuse cases in the North.

The captain of the guard was called “to ensure the deputy is removed from the House” but Ms McDonald would not leave.

Mr Barrett described the stand-off as deeply regrettable and implied it had damaged the reputation of the House.

Ms McDonald said she had not planned the protest, but said Mr Barrett had “aided and abetted” Ms Burton in not answering direct questions.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times