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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald PA Images

McDonald says allegations she used Hutch family for money and votes ‘entirely wrong’

The Sinn Féin leader rejected claims made during a Special Criminal Court trial.

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has rejected allegations that she used the Hutch family for money and votes, claims which emerged in a high profile gangland trial in Dublin.

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall was secretly recorded making the claims and criticising McDonald for not attending the funeral of the brother of murder accused Gerry “The Monk” Hutch.

Counsel for Hutch has challenged the legality of the recordings, and their admissibility in court.

The claims emerged in the Special Criminal Court where Hutch is on trial for the murder of David Byrne, who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in February 2016.

McDonald has rejected the allegations.

She told BBC NI Sunday Politics show: “That is absolutely not true. Let me further say that that case is ongoing in Dublin.

“This case is as a result of incredible, sterling work by the gardaí over many years, and I’m certainly not going to say anything that would in any way jeopardise or undermine or influence the outcome of that important trial.”

She added: “Any suggestion that there has been anything improper is entirely wrong, that is simply not the case.”

Unionists have called for an investigation into the allegations, and Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie wants a cross-border police inquiry.

McDonald said: “I have no link, alleged or otherwise. I’m unclear how you investigate something that didn’t happen.

“As to people attacking me or taking this as a golden opportunity to have a go, as they say, I’m not surprised by that. I’m not surprised at all because the reality is that across the island, the mood for change is obvious.

“Those who are very attached to the status quo, and frankly want to keep things as they are, those who don’t share our ambition for an Ireland that’s free and equal and based on social justice, will do what they can to hold back that tide of change.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has also requested a meeting with the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne about the allegations.

Donaldson told party members and supporters that he will seek further information to “inform our next steps”.

It comes as a new opinion poll revealed Sinn Féin has lost support but remains the Republic’s most popular party.

The Red C Poll for the Business Post shows support for the party dropped four points, while support for Fine Gael has increased by three.

The poll shows Sinn Féin on 31%, Fine Gael on 24% and Fianna Fáil down one point on 15%.

The Green Party, according to the poll, increased by one point to 5%.

Meanwhile, McDonald condemned an incident in which a woman chanted a pro-IRA slogan during an encounter with Arlene Foster.

In the video, a woman poses for a selfie with the former Northern Ireland first minister before starting to chant “Up the Ra!”, a pro-IRA lyric from the Celtic Symphony by The Wolfe Tones.

Foster’s father, a reserve police officer, survived after being shot in the head by the IRA in 1979, and she was a teenager when a school bus she was travelling on was targeted in an IRA bomb attack in 1988.

McDonald said the incident was not acceptable.

“I think it was deeply disrespectful and I think at all times our interactions with each other need to be guided by civility and respect and certainly that fell far short of those standards,” she added.

“I suspect, for what it’s worth, although I don’t know, that the woman in question perhaps belatedly realises the error of that particular approach to Arlene Foster.

“Arlene was right to call it out.”

Press Association