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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Sinn Fein The Sinn Féin leader is in Australia for a whistle stop tour of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this week.
Mary Lou in Oz

McDonald dismisses suggestion attendance at €2k 'Gold Table' Sydney dinner sends wrong message

The SF leader said the event, organised by a business group and TCD Alumni, is not a party event.

MARY LOU MCDONALD has brushed off suggestions that attending a dinner event in Sydney where a ‘Gold Table’ is on sale for upwards of €2,000 might send the wrong message back home, telling The Journal it’s not a Sinn Féin event. 

The Sinn Féin leader is in Australia for a whistle stop tour of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra this week. 

The Sydney dinner, co-hosted by the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, which is organising a series of events with McDonald, as well as the TCD Alumni Sydney chapter was in the format of fireside “in conversation” chat with McDonald where she discussed the pandemic, Brexit, and Ireland’s position in the world.

Speaking exclusively to The Journal prior to the event outside the venue on a 100-year-old revamped wooden pier in Sydney, McDonald was unfazed by a question about the event fees, where tickets started at €140 for individuals and €1,400 for tables.

“I’ve been invited by the Trinity alumni and the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce. I’m delighted to be here in that capacity. It’s not my event. It’s their event and, as I think you can see from the people going in and out … they’re a very regular bunch of people.”

The Journal previously reported that a spokesperson for Sinn Féin said that the party “will not be receiving any income from the tour”.

“It is to engage with the Irish community in Australia, with political representatives and with businesses and trade unions on issues in Ireland; north and south,” the spokesperson said.

Chair of the TCD Alumni Sydney Chapter Eithne McSweeney has also stated that the ticket price covers the cost of the event and that neither the alumni group nor the Chamber would make a profit.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously criticised plans for the dinner in the Dáil , saying that McDonald would be “clinking” glasses with Trinity alumni who are co-hosting the event.

During a speech at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra yesterday, McDonald made a rallying call to tradespeople, who she said were forced to live Ireland during the recession, to return home. 

Speaking to The Journal about her comments she said she recognised that lots of Irish people choose to come to Australia and build their lives there.

“And that’s great, and we’re very proud of that contribution to Australian society. But I’m also aware there is a whole set of people who felt that they had no option but to leave and who want to go home but who currently feel that they can’t.

“The promise I have made is that we will work very, very hard to change things so that they can come home. I believe this is all about choice. And on one level, of course, people want to travel for adventure, for experience and all of that’s great stuff, but nobody should ever feel forced out or that they are prevented from coming home.”

On the wider issue, there’s huge global demand now for trades and for professions. In Ireland, we train the best of the best, we have outstanding skills and education and a work ethic like no other.

“And, yes, we need to harness that talent at home because we need to build Ireland,” she said.

Separate, to her attendance at the event hosted by the Sydney Trinity Alumni association and Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, McDonald also attended a series of events with the Irish community, trade union leaders in Sydney, as well as members of the New South Wales Parliament.  

Greg Flynn (in Sydney) and Christina Finn
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