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File photo. Mary Lou McDonald. Leah Farrell/
The Opposition

'They must be held to account': Mary Lou McDonald says Taoiseach has refused request to recall the Dáil

Micheál Martin said that the Dáil would not be recalled this week.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Aug 2020

THE SINN FÉIN leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin has refused her request to recall the Dáil in the wake of the latest government controversy that has erupted in the last 24 hours.

She has joined Labour leader Alan Kelly and a number of other opposition TDs calling for the Dáil to be recalled after another bad week for the government. 

This evening, Martin said that the Dáil would not be recalled this week. “The government doesn’t run the Dáil,” he said on RTÉ’s Six One News. “Our immediate focus is the re-opening of schools.”

Dara Calleary today became the second Fianna Fáil agriculture minister to lose his job in as many months, as he resigned in the wake of the Oireachtas Golf Society event on Wednesday night which was attended by over 80 people. 

The fallout has seen apologies from a Supreme Court judge, a string of senators and two TDs who were at the event.

The government is also under pressure with schools due to open again next week, and calls are growing to discuss the latest developments around Covid-19 in the Dáil.

In a tweet, Sinn Féin’s McDonald said: “Have spoken with the Taoiseach. He has refused my request to recall the Dáil.

“He is wrong. The government is increasingly chaotic, confused, with no direction. They must be held to account.”

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan also this evening called on the Dáil to reconvene as soon as possible. 

“People are livid and rightly so. So many people have given up so much voluntarily in the past months, and second-guessed everything they did,” she said. 

“The Dáil must return in early September to try to restore the public’s confidence that the pandemic is being managed well, that our young people are being protected, and people’s concerns are being listened to.”

Labour’s Alan Kelly also called for the Dáil to be recalled in the wake of the scandal. 

He said: “There must be a new government Minister put in place to deal with the outbreaks we have seen in the meat processing sector. This cannot be left for three weeks while there are still clusters appearing in meat factories.

It is essential now that the Taoiseach recall the Dáil next week so that a new Minister can be appointed and those in our parliament who attended the dinner can make statements. Further, the Dáil must meet to deal with the critical issues facing our country including the reopening of our schools, the Leaving Cert and the confusion over Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Kelly said he has been in politics a long time and has rarely seen the public so angry about something.

He called on Martin to talk to European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan about his attendance at the event and state publicly whether or not he has confidence in Hogan.

This evening, a spokesperson for Hogan said that he had already apologised after Martin said that he should make a “meaningful response”. 

‘A long conversation’ 

In relation to the attendance of Supreme Court judge Seamus Woulfe, Kelly said: “If he was still the Attorney General, he wouldn’t be in the position of Attorney General now, there’s no doubt about that.

“Obviously there is a separation of powers here. But having said that, I’m very uncomfortable that a judge was at an event like this and I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Kelly said the Chief Justice will now likely “sit down and have a long conversation” with Woulfe about his attendance and position.

Woulfe earlier apologised “unreservedly” and said he regrets attending the event.

Speaking on the same programme, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said: “I think it’s very obvious that the event should not have taken place, and those who attended, should not have attended.”

In relation to Woulfe, McGrath stated: “I am speaking as a member and on behalf of government and so I do have to uphold our Constitution and respect the separation of powers … but it is up to each person, irrespective of what position they hold, to give an account for themselves, of what they did, the reasoning behind their decision, and their response to that now.”

McGrath said it is “not acceptable” that people in “very privileged positions” are not abiding by the same rules as the general public.

With reporting by Órla Ryan and Dominic McGrath

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