Sinn Féin ‘Eurocritical, not Eurosceptic’, says Mary Lou McDonald

Party’s manifesto says Sinn Féin opposes EU asylum and migration pact because ‘Ireland should retain sovereignty over its own borders and migration policy’

Sinn Féin is “Eurocritical” rather than Eurosceptic, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Ahead of next week’s elections, Ms McDonald on Thursday launched the party’s European manifesto in Dublin and declared that she wants Sinn Féin to be the largest party in local and national government. She responded to reports of anger being directed at her candidates on the campaign trail by saying the “vast bulk” of people are “very reasonable”.

Asked about the party’s position on the European Union, she said Sinn Féin is “Eurocritical” rather than Eurosceptic.

“We need to work together on the big issues. But we don’t just sleepwalk along the road without thinking it out, without asking is this a good move,” she said.


Ms McDonald said “Euroscepticism is a very British phenomenon” and accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil MEPs of being “unquestioning” and “uncritical” of the EU.

On immigration, the party’s manifesto states that Sinn Féin is opposed to the EU asylum and migration pact because “Ireland should retain sovereignty over its own borders and migration policy”. The pact would see new rules put in place around the relocation of asylum seekers.

The manifesto also says Sinn Féin wants to ensure “that Ireland’s own immigration laws will apply once the special status of Ukrainians under the Temporary Protection Directive” expires next March.

Ms McDonald said there needed to be a “plan in respect of Ukrainian people living here in Ireland” given March will come around quickly, the temporary directive will end and “the question then is what happens next”.

“In the absence of a thought-out plan, what will happen, I imagine, is that Ukrainians will go into our standard international protection system, which is under pressure and has suffered from a lack of Government planning and cohesion,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader said her view was that those “working in critical areas need their situation regularised by means of work permit” given there is a “labour shortage here in many critical parts of the economy”.

“Ultimately, we have to have a conversation around the conflict in Ukraine, how long will it go on, are we forever going to be in an emergency situation, are we looking at something longer term. For now, we are in a war situation and the worst position you can be in is having no plan.”

On international protection, Ms McDonald called for a system that is “fair, efficient and enforced” and for a doubling of resources in the International Protection Office.

“On accommodation, there has to be emergency measures, there is no doubt about that. One of the big mistakes that has been made, and certainly we would correct this, is the failure to have dialogue and conversations with communities. It was, to my mind, the most damaging mistake the Government made,” she said.

Asked about claims being made on some doorsteps, and by elements of the far-right, that Sinn Féin are “sell-outs”, she said there has been a “welcome on the mat” where she has canvassed.

“In 2020 there was a big surge and appetite around change. We are four years down the line and I am very conscious there has been almost a frustration with people saying: ‘Well where is it? It has been talked about but can we just see it?’,” she said. “These elections now, it’s the first time people have that opportunity to come out and vote for change. I think that resolve is there and the proof of it will be there when the ballot boxes open.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times