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Dáil claims

McDonald further criticised for claim Govt did not contact school after stabbing

Mary Lou McDonald was accused of misleading the Dáil during yesterday’s confidence motion in Justice Minister Helen McEntee.

EDUCATION MINISTER NORMA Foley has said it is a matter for the Sinn Féin leader as to whether she will withdraw comments she made in the Dáil yesterday. 

Mary Lou McDonald clashed with government yesterday when she claimed in the Dáil it took nearly two weeks for it to engage with the school community at the centre of the knife attack on 23 November.

Speaking to The Journal this afternoon, the education minister confirmed that she spoke to the school principal of Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire on the day of the attack. 

Foley said the Department of Education’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) was on site on the day of the attack, offering assistance to staff, pupils and parents, and remained on site to provide help over the following days.

Mary Lou McDonald was accused of misleading the Dáil during yesterday’s confidence motion in Justice Minister Helen McEntee. 

During the debate, McDonald stated: 

“The gravity and trauma of this horrific attack has not been fully acknowledged or fully understood. It took nearly two weeks for the Government to reach out to the school community.”

Interruptions followed, where Tánaiste Micheál Martin called such a statement “rubbish”. McDonald continued, stating “many parents tell me they feel forgotten, vulnerable and afraid. They are angry”. 

By the time it was the justice minister’s time to respond, McDonald had already left the chamber. 

McEntee said both herself and McDonald attended a meeting together recently. 

‘Failed miserably’

“We both know what was asked of us by parents. Deputy McDonald has failed miserably this evening to fulfil that request from parents,” she said. 

The Irish Independent reports that McDonald was among a number of local politicians who attended a meeting with parents of those affected by the attack in the public expenditure’s office on Monday night.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe hit out at McDonald over her remarks yesterday. Varadkar accused McDonald of engaging in “absolutely disgraceful behaviour” and asked her to retract her comment. 

“The leader of the opposition has quite disgracefully misled the Dail. There was contact from the Government with the school within 24 hours of the events.

“Several ministers did so. She knows that, it’s deliberate misleading and it should be withdrawn. I call on her to be decent for once and withdraw it,” the Taoiseach said. 

McDonald refused to do so and said she had stated “facts”.

Calls to withdraw comments 

Minister of State for Special Education Josepha Madigan said “the Taoiseach did ask Deputy McDonald to withdraw comments, as did I, quite clearly yesterday in the Dail. It was absolutely outrageous what she said”.

She added that NEPS were at the school within a few hours of the incidence and have been there every day since.  

When asked if McDonald should now withdraw her comments, Foley said “it’s a matter of for a Deputy McDonald herself”.

“But I have always been very clear, right from the outset, I spoke with the principal on the day. Also, we ensured that the most professional trained of our staff were on the ground there, NEPS psychologists, our school psychologists, they were there on Thursday,” she said. 

She confirmed they were there on the Friday, the following Sunday and Monday “and have been there and available to the school at all times”.

The minister said she wanted to salute the school, the school community and staff and the leadership being shown.

She said they are working to “bring back a sense of normality, an ordinariness, if you like, for the students”. Foley said the psychologists working with the school have said it is “the most important thing for the students that there would be this air of normality, where it’s at all possible”. 

When asked if the focus should be on bringing about a sense of normality for the school, rather than parachuting politicians in for visits, the minister said “coming from an education background” the needs of the children need to come first.

“Normality” and “routine” is what the school needs right now, said the minister.

“Presently, they’re preparing for their Christmas shows, and they’re learning their dances, and they’re singing and, and staff are doing it with such great generosity, they’re putting their own worries and concerns behind them for the benefit of students – that is education at its best,” she said.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said yesterday evening:

“The first time a Government minister met with the parents of Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire was last night.

“This was twelve days after the horrific stabbing of three children and Leanne Flynn.

“Mary Lou McDonald met with parents last Friday and they told her of their anger that no Minister had met with them.”

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