Everything on the table ahead of Border poll, Mary Lou McDonald tells Late Late Show

Sinn Féin leader says health and education are of more importance than flags and anthems

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou MacDonald has said it is time to prepare for poll on a united Ireland with a view to achieving “peaceful, orderly and democratic change” in the short to medium term.

She said polling data which suggests a majority of people north of the Border remain opposed to unification is a reflection of people’s views “before Government has signalled a seriousness about this debate.”

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show, she declined to say whether or not Amhrán na bhFiann or the Tricolour would remain the key symbols of the nation and said it was more important focus on key issues such as how education and the health system would be managed in a united Ireland.

She said that in her view the Tricolour “captures the green and the orange, you know, the two great traditions, and peace” adding that while in her view Amhrán na bhFiann is the national anthem, she was not “going to selectively say we can’t talk about anything, I think we need to talk about it.”


However she stressed that when she talks to people “the first issue that they raise north and south is the issue of the health system”.

“I believe we need an Irish national health system. And I believe that that is possible. I think we can only achieve that on an all-Ireland basis,” she said.

Addressing the recent biography of her by Shane Ross she said elements of it had angered her and were “despicable.”

She said that she was a public figure and accepted that she would attract a great deal of commentary both positive and negative. “But my family aren’t, and my family aren’t up for grabs. And in the book, there is things written about my childhood, written about a time in our lives that was hugely traumatic for my family.

“And I think, to write that, to find the sore spot in someone’s life, particularly trauma when you’re a child, and you have no influence over it and then to write that up, almost like as a gotcha and to describe that as it is in the book as like a skeleton in your closet, I think is wrong. I think it’s kind of despicable.”

She said she could not discuss details of any trials currently before the courts but said that she represented communities “that have been devastated by a heroin epidemic, devastated again by an ongoing drugs, epidemic and then traumatised by what’s referred to as gangland violence” and said she had a position of “zero tolerance for this kind of criminality, and thuggery”.

When asked about the possibility of being the first woman Taoiseach in the history of the State she said it would be “important that women and girls know in our society that there’s no place that we cannot go, no job that’s beyond us. No responsibility that’s beyond us. And politics is still very, very male”.

And as to who she would consider forming a coalition with after the next general election she said her ideal – apart from an overall majority – would be a coalition of the left without the involvement of either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, a comment which received an enthusiastic round of applause from the studio audience.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast