McDonald signals she would not attend Provisional IRA commemorations as taoiseach

‘If I had the privilege of leading government I would be a taoiseach for everybody’, says Sinn Féin leader

Mary Lou McDonald has signalled that she would not attend events commemorating the Provisional IRA as taoiseach if Sinn Féin is elected to lead a future government.

The Sinn Féin leader’s remarks come after controversy over the attendance of one of her party’s MPs, John Finucane, at an IRA commemoration in Co Armagh at the weekend.

His attendance at the event billed as the South Armagh Volunteers Commemoration was criticised by, among others, the DUP and Tanáiste Micheál Martin.

Asked by reporters if she would attend similar commemoration events as taoiseach, Ms McDonald said: “For me ... if I had the privilege of leading government I would be a taoiseach for everybody and I would act in a way to foster respect, reconciliation and understanding and never in a partisan way to give offence to anyone.”


Pressed on whether she would attend events commemorating the Provisional IRA if she held that office, she replied: “If I were taoiseach there’s a set pattern of what the taoiseach attends and does not attend.”

Put to her that previous taoisigh have not attended events to commemorate the Provisional IRA she said: “Well, they show up on Easter Sunday [to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising] the last time I checked so you’ll find me at the GPO on those occasions.”

Speaking about Mr Finucane’s attendance at the weekend event, she said: “For me the issue has to be that we allow space for everybody to respectfully remember their dead and to respectfully remember their story.”

She added: “I don’t think it should become a matter of controversy because somebody wears their poppy or because somebody wears their Easter Lily.

“We have to be at a point in our evolution as a society and as human beings that we can disagree.”

She said Mr Finucane “had very traumatic experiences in his own childhood”

Mr Finucane spoke at the commemoration about the murder of his father Pat by loyalist gunmen in front of him and his siblings in 1989. He said that remembrance is a right that should apply “without prejudice” to every section of the society.

Separately Ms McDonald would not be drawn on whether or not Sinn Féin would continue its practice of recent years of abstaining from the Dáil vote on renewing the legislation that underpins the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC) which is used for terrorism and gang crime cases.

The party has dropped its outright opposition to having a non-jury court and is awaiting the outcome of an independent review of the Offences Against the State Act chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Michael Peart.

The Irish Times has reported that the six-person review group was divided over the future of the SCC. The majority is in favour of retaining it albeit with reforms, while the minority wants to abolish it.

This review is yet to be published. This year’s Dáil vote on the legislation must take place before June 30th if it is to be renewed.

Ms McDonald welcomed the news that the review has been finished and she wants to see it published.

She said organised crime is “sophisticated and vicious and it needs to be faced down with all of might that the State can muster.”

Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin’s position is for the court to be reformed adding: “We do accept that there are certain circumstances in which you need non-jury courts”. She said the party wanted a system that is not based on emergency short-term powers.

She was speaking at the launch of a document setting out Sinn Féin’s “priorities for change” in the area of child and youth mental health.

The party wants to improve access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs), reduce waiting times and expand it to cover young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Sinn Féin want to increase the number of Camhs beds from 53 to 115 and to deliver a “full complement of fully staffed Camhs teams” in line with the 2006 Sharing the Vision report.

The party’s health spokesman David Cullinane said Sinn Féin was putting forward “practical, realistic, deliverable solutions” that were funded.

He said the package they are proposing would cost €112 million in once-off capital costs and would require €129 million in recurring funding.

“Some of the measures are over three years, some are over five years. But we would want them done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times