Tensions over refugee housing could be avoided with proper plan, McDonald says

Sinn Féin’s 335 candidates can each win a seat in the upcoming local elections, party leader says

Tensions over the accommodation of refugees in local communities could largely have been avoided with better “communication or consultation”, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Speaking at a local elections event in Monaghan on Friday, she said people had been asking questions about immigration while she was canvassing.

“I don’t think anybody should be surprised by that. When a change comes to your country or communities, people are going to ask questions,” she said.

“The thing that people are most frustrated by, most shocked by, is the fact that the Government has failed to have any plan.


“I think that could have been avoided. I think it should have been avoided. I think we could have avoided much of the stress and strain that has happened.

“We’ve told people that what we need is a system that is fair, that is efficient and that’s enforced, a rules-based system.

“Let me tell you, I’ve been on doors now all around the place and ... that’s in my opinion, where the vast, vast, vast majority of Irish people are at, a system that is fair, that’s efficient.”

On her party’s electoral prospects, she said she believed Sinn Féin’s 335 local candidates could each claim a seat.

Ms McDonald said the party is “really stretching” itself in running so many candidates but said the size of the team reflects the party’s ambitions.

Sinn Féin are running many more candidates than most of the other parties in the local elections.

Launching the party’s manifesto in Monaghan on Friday, Ms McDonald said the local and European elections are the first step in getting “this disastrous Government out of office”.

Sinn Féin’s local election manifesto pledges include bringing waste collection services back under the control of local councils and providing more childcare spaces though local authority-led childcare facilities.

The party promises its councillors will use powers available to them to reduce the local property tax to the lowest possible amount until such time as it is abolished by a Sinn Féin government.

The party also pledges that “a strong Sinn Féin team in local government will priorities delivering the biggest public housing programme in the history of the State to meet social and affordable housing need.”

Ms McDonald said: “We’re running 335 candidates, each of those candidates can win. That’s the truth of it. I believe that every single one of them has a real chance of being elected. I want every single one of them to be elected.

“I do not possess a crystal ball so I cannot give you a definitive figure but I can tell you the candidates we have selected, we have selected to win. It’s a been a big challenge, it is a big challenge for the party because we’re really stretching ourselves here.”

While support for Sinn Féin continues to decline in advance of next month’s elections, according to recent polls, the party is confident it can build on its 2020 general election success.

“Some 46 per cent of our candidates are women, I’m happy to say. We’re not quite at 50 per cent yet but we’re getting there,” Ms McDonald said.

“I’m very conscious going around the country that there is a sense now in many, many communities that they’re not listened to, that they’ve been left behind, that politics represents just more of the same old same.

“That’s a bad thing. I think that’s a really unhealthy thing for our politics and our democracy.” – Additional reporting: PA

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times