Sinn Féin says Seán Barrett ‘evading meetings’ to resolve row

Ceann Comhairle and party have clashed a number of times recently in Dáil chamber

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has accused Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett of continually evading meetings aimed at resolving their ongoing dispute.

Responding to accusations made by Mr Barrett, who claimed that Sinn Féin has used him as "a pawn to deflect attention" away from the party's difficulties around the Maíria Cahill case, Mr Adams also criticised the Fine Gael TD's decision to do media interviews on the matter rather than seek a resolution.

“I have been writing to the Ceann Comhairle for many months now regarding my belief that he has failed to properly and impartially discharge his duties. I have been seeking a meeting with him to discuss Sinn Féin’s concerns. He has not facilitated this,” said Mr Adams, following comments made by Mr Barrett in today’s Irish Times.

“He has no problem facilitating media interviews to attack Sinn Féin and make false statements... I urge Teachta Barrett to have the courage of his convictions and meet me to discuss and hopefully resolve these serious issues,” he added.

One recent clash between Mr Barrett and Sinn Féin saw the party’s deputy leader Mary Lou-McDonald stage a Dáil sit-in, which the party claimed followed “unfair” treatment and Mr Barrett being “continually deferential” to Ministers.

Mr Adams said Mr Barrett’s comments were an attempt to “salvage his reputation”, and that Sinn Féin TDs have not been afforded adequate protection in Dáil debates.

“Highly prejudicial comments against Sinn Féin TDs by members of the Government parties have become a feature of Dáil debates. The Ceann Comhairle has allowed Sinn Féin TDs to be abused in the most disgraceful manner,” he said.

In the interview, Mr Barrett said Sinn Féin had called him biased and that he rejected the allegation. “If there is one thing I take grave exception to, (it is) accusing me in the wrong and . . . briefing people outside. Morally, it’s wrong.”

He said the position of Ceann Comhairle can often be lonely.

“Nobody likes taking abuse, but some of that abuse has been grossly and utterly unfair. And allegations have been made; on one occasion I wasn’t even in the chair and they accused me of being biased and all sorts of things. It has only happened in the last two or three months.

“And I’m not stupid, I know why it is being done – because it deflects attention,” he said, adding it was a diversion from issues such as the storm surrounding Ms Cahill’s allegations of sex abuse by republicans.