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Mary Lou McDonald asks Michael Noonan to clarify if he described Majella Moynihan case as 'internal garda matter'

Noonan was minister for justice during the period Majella Moynihan faced censure.

McDonald was speaking during today's Leaders' Questions.
McDonald was speaking during today's Leaders' Questions.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has called on former minister for justice Michael Noonan to clarify what he has said in relation to former garda Majella Moynihan.

Moynihan was a serving garda in the early 1980s and became pregnant as a result of a relationship with another garda.

She faced dismissal for giving birth to a baby outside of marriage and has said she was pressured into giving her baby up for adoption.

Her story was featured in RTÉ’s Documentary on One, prompting widespread anger.

Speaking during leaders questions today, McDonald said her story provided a glimpse into an “awful oppressive misogynistic Ireland” and said that Moynihan was “vilified, isolated and damaged” by garda superiors.

McDonald said that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should apologise on behalf of the State and said that since the case was raised “others have come also to tell their stories”.

Noonan was minister for justice during the period Moynihan faced censure and McDonald said that Moynihan has said she spoke to Noonan about her case a decade ago.

“Are there more Majellas out there? What will you do to establish the full facts?,” McDonald asked Varadkar.

And Taoiseach, Majella said yesterday that she spoke with Michael Noonan who was Minister for Justice way back in 1983. That she spoke to him 10 years ago and at that point he said to her that this was an internal garda matter. The mind boggles as to how this could ever have been an internal garda matter.

“I understand that Michael Noonan hasn’t responded to this matter and I want to ask you should he now make a statement on this and have you Taoiseach spoken with him?”

Majella Moynihan in 1998 Former garda Majella Moynihan. Source: RTÉ

In response, Varadkar said he had not spoken to Noonan and confirmed he would apologise to any woman in similar circumstances when the facts were established.

“I haven’t spoken to Deputy Noonan about it. I don’t know if there are more Majellas out there, there may well be and certainly I would have no difficulty apologising to those women on behalf of the State but I would like to know the facts and be able to answer the kind of questions you ask today before doing that,” Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach said Moynihan’s story has “very much gripped the nation” and he paid tribute to the journalists behind it.

It was deeply moving, it was almost unbelievable except that those of us who did grow up in Ireland in the 80s can believe that it was true. What was done to her was wrong on every level. He privacy was invaded, she was made to feel shame, she was pressured to give up her child and the way she was penalised was deeply sexist when you consider that the man involved was only subject to a fine.

leo Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Varadkar told the Dáil that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris is to meet with Moynihan and said that Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has asked to attend the meeting also.

In response, McDonald called for the State to investigate “were there more Majellas and if so how many?”.

The Sinn Féin leader then again called for Noonan to clarify matters.

“I think it’s very, very important to establish that we are now in fact living in a new time,” McDonald said.

That the then serving minister for justice in 1983 but who has as recently as 10 years ago described this as an internal garda matter. I think it’s very, very important that that matter is clarified. I would imagine that Michael Noonan would welcome the opportunity to clarify this matter.

Varadkar said he was not sure that would be appropriate.

“I think very many people have served as minister for justice since 1983. I’m not aware of how many but it could be a dozen people, and I don’t really think that that’s what this is about. Trying to have a go at a politician or a former minister for justice,” the Taoiseach said.

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Rónán Duffy

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