'corrosive damage' | 

Mary Lou McDonald says there is ‘no comparison’ between IRA and gangland violence

“Margaret Thatcher coined that phrase (‘crime is crime’) so if you’re of that mind, you’re of that mind,” Ms McDonald said

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald during her keynote speech at her party's Ard Fheis at the RDS in Dublin. PA© PA

Gabija Gataveckaite and Cate McCurryIndependent.ie

There is “no comparison” between violence of the IRA during the Troubles and gangland violence, according to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

She was asked about not having “any time” for former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, while her party has a sitting TD who served time in prison on explosives charges, and former members of the parliamentary party have been previously convicted for similar charges.

“I think if we’re going to talk about things that happened in the course of the conflict, that’s one thing. That’s one discussion,” she told Newstalk’s On the Record with Gavan Reilly.

“As somebody who represents the North Inner City from Dublin, and who has seen and sees at first hand the damage, the corrosive damage that so-called gangland has caused to communities, there is absolutely no comparison,” she said.

Ms McDonald said former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher coined the phrase “crime is crime”.

“Margaret Thatcher coined that phrase so if you’re of that mind, you’re of that mind,” Ms McDonald said.

“The things that happened in the course of a very long political conflict – which thank God is now long over, we’ve had 25 years of peace – there is no comparison between that and the kind of challenge, and it is an ongoing challenge, to our society between this and the so-called gangland crime epidemic poses.

“I say that as somebody who represents fine communities, the best of people, for whom this is a daily scourge.”

The Dublin TD, whose party’s Ard Fheis took place this weekend, said she first found out about Mr Dowdall’s links to criminality in 2016 when he was arrested after he waterboarded a man.

Ms McDonald said she wouldn't have had him in her party if she was aware of his links to criminality.

“Had I had even an inkling that he was involved in any form of criminality, much less than what he was now accused of, he wouldn't have been within a roar of me or within Sinn Féin,” she said.

The former councillor is now a State witness in the Regency Hotel murder trial after he pleaded guilty to helping to facilitate the murder of David Byrne.

“The first I knew of any of this was when he had been arrested for a different offence. And I was very, very shocked by that,” Ms McDonald said.

“Prior to that he had been a person running a very successful business, with very high-level contracts, employing a lot of people. And certainly there wouldn’t have been any indication for me or for anybody else that he would be involved in this type of activity.

“Had I had even an inkling that he was involved in any form of criminality, much less than what he was now accused of, he wouldn't have been within a roar of me or within Sinn Féin,” she said.

Ms McDonald also said the €1,000 donation Mr Dowdall made to the party was most likely used for election purposes.

She said the donation was made to the Dublin Central constituency. Sipo records show he gave Ms McDonald a cheque of €1,000 in 2011.

Separately, Ms McDonald has said she would speak to all parties about forming a government after the next general election.

Ms McDonald said the party will go out to win every single seat, but once the votes are counted the Dublin TD said she will speak to everyone.

But she went on to say that the best option for the country would be a government that does not include Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

It comes as a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll revealed that support for the party remains ahead of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

However, the poll also found that support for Sinn Fein dropped three points to 34pc, but the party retains a 13-point lead ahead of Fine Gael at 21pc, while Fianna Fail sits at 17pc. Support for both parties remains unchanged.

The poll was carried out among 1,002 people.

Support for Sinn Féin has been growing in recent years, with the party taking 22.3pc of first preferences in the 2020 general election.

The party has been polling well since then, with the vast majority of its support base coming from young people.

However, Mrs McDonald said there are no "foregone conclusions in elections".

"We will keep working very, very hard," she told RTÉ's The Week In Politics.

"I hear a lot of commentary around that things are foregone conclusions or sometimes assertions that I or we think that things - there's no foregone conclusions in political life and there are certainly no foregone conclusions in elections.

"We will go out to win every single seat, every single vote, the confidence of every single voter that we can."

Meanwhile, Ms McDonald repeated her calls for a joint authority between Dublin and London if an executive in Northern Ireland is not restored.

The Sinn Féin leader said that if the DUP continues to boycott the Northern Ireland Assembly, then the British and Irish governments should form a partnership.

She said that there should not be direct rule if an executive cannot be formed.

Ms McDonald said: "The reason I made the point as regards direct rule is, we have to be absolutely clear on one thing and it's this. It is not a choice between powersharing on the one hand or direct rule from London on the other.

"The best scenario is that the executive is up and running. So the British government, having said now that we won't have an election this side of Christmas, needs to very speedily this week set out the plan of engagement with Brussels, to sort out the outstanding implementations of the protocol to get the executive up and running.

"If at that stage the DUP still are on boycott mode, then it is partnership between Dublin and London.

"I'd use the term joint authority, partnership, whatever language you use, it has to be a co-equal situation and it has to reflect not just the building blocks of the Good Friday Agreement, it also needs to take account that the politics in the North has very much changed.

"There is no longer a unionist electoral majority, that you now have for the first time a nationalist, a republican, Michelle O'Neill, as first minister designate."


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