McDonald says idea Sinn Féin will save May’s deal ‘frankly farcical’

SF president rules out party taking its seats at Westminster and needles other parties

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has said she does not understand how other parties cannot accept that her party will never take its seats at Westminster.

Sinn Féin has come under pressure from both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to take its seven seats in Westminster. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week said the party's MPs should consider resigning their seats ahead of the vote on the Brexit deal in the House of Commons on December 11th.

They should allow their constituents to decide whether or not they want to have a say in the vote, he said.

Ms McDonald gave the guest lecture at the Irish Association for Contemporary European Studies in Trinity College Dublin on the title of a A New Ireland in a New Europe.


She said both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were “regional” parties, while Sinn Féin was a national party with representation on both sides of the Border.

“People who are in Government advising Irish citizens elected by other Irish citizens on the island of Ireland to go to the next island and make an oath of allegiance to a foreign power – I am at a loss as to how people do not understand how deeply profoundly problematic that is for people,” she said.

Frankly farcical

Asked after her address why the party was not taking its seats in Westminster with the Brexit vote looming, Ms McDonald said: “The idea that the Fenians will land in and save [UK prime minister Theresa May’s] deal is frankly farcical,” she said.

“I am alarmed to hear it posited as a serious proposition by serious people.”

She said even the former British Liberal Democrat leader and Europhile Nick Clegg had dismissed the prospect of Sinn Féin votes making the difference in Westminster.

Ms McDonald said the deal negotiated by the UK prime minister and the European Council mitigates some of the worst aspects of Brexit and is the “least-worst option”.

However, she added, “Irish interests were never protected at Westminster. That is not the function of Westminster. It is the job of the Government in Dublin to protect Irish interests.”

‘Gentler’ meeting

Ms McDonald said her meeting with Mrs May on Monday had been “gentler” than previous meetings, during which the exchanges had been “frank”.

There has been no executive or assembly in the North for the past two years.

She said a proposition had been reached last February that would have allowed the Northern Ireland Assembly to be reconstituted.

“We had enough on balance to reassemble the Assembly and Executive. The rest is history. It all came to nought and the DUP walked away,” she said.

“We were told the issues were intractable and couldn’t be sorted out. We demonstrated that they could be. It is disgraceful that we don’t have the institutions.”

Ms McDonald criticised both the German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron, whom she claimed were intent on further centralising European policy and creating an EU army.

“I do not consider it a coincidence that in their two respective countries nearly 17 million people voted for far-right parties and candidates in 2017. EU militarisation is not only dangerous, it is paradoxical too.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times