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Saturday 3 June 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Leah Farrell/
Mary Lou McDonald on Dáil debate 'Playing the woman and not the ball is a tactic'
The deputy leader of Sinn Féin writes for on her frustration with the ‘arrogance and entitlement’ of establishment parties.

JUST THIRTY-FIVE of the 158 Teachtaí Dála are women. This reality creates its own challenges.

Politics is a tough business, one that can require a thick skin. Social media, a 24-hour news cycle and the need to reduce policies and politics to 140-character sound bites no doubt challenge and shape how politicians do their business, inside and outside the Dáil chamber.

However politics is not about spin, it is a serious business. It is a privilege to be elected by your community to not only represent them in the Dáil but to be entrusted to make decisions that will affect every aspect of their lives. I take this responsibility to heart. It’s my job to make the case for the policies and politics I was elected on.

That can sometimes be a tough ask.

One of my great frustrations is the failure of Government Ministers, and indeed An Taoiseach, to answer questions put to them. I encourage anyone reading this piece to go to the Oireachtas website and have a look at any Dáil debate between a member of the cabinet and the opposition. It is nigh on impossible to get a straight answer to a straight question. Some obfuscate whilst others play the woman and not the ball. All tactics in diversion and distraction.

Everything is political. Be it the minimum an employer is allowed pay you, the number of children in your daughter or sons classroom or your ability to put a roof over your head. Nearly every aspect of our lives is influenced by government policies and politics.

It’s our responsibility to argue for our electorate

We in the opposition have a responsibility to argue as hard as we can for the political agenda we were elected on. That can sometimes be challenging for members of the Government, particularly when we expose the deeply unfair and economically unsound decisions they are pursuing.

Much was made this week of an exchange between myself and An Taoiseach. To be honest there was little new in what happened. I sought to raise matters of significant importance to the island of Ireland and the Taoiseach, as is his wont, played to his own gallery to avoid dealing with the substance of the discussion. Nothing new there.

Accountability is not something that sits easy with the establishment parties. There is an arrogance and sense of entitlement in how they conduct their business. They coalesce around the notion that there is no political alternative. That Ireland is destined to be governed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil until the end of time. This is the context within which this week’s exchange took place. Gender is also a factor.

I make no apologies for taking my mandate seriously

Politics is still dominated by men. I am fortunate to have secured a mandate from Dublin Central and to represent Sinn Féin in the Dáil. I take my mandate seriously. As an Irish republican woman I am committed to Irish unity, to social justice, to sound economics and to the public interest. I make no apologies for that.

Be sure to expect more of the same Government antics over the coming weeks. It’s Budget time and Sinn Féin’s fully-costed alternative budget will put in bright lights the inequity of the Government’s choices. Ending family homeless or introducing a living wage are not aspirations, they are deliverable policy objectives for any Government with the political will to do so.

Will the Government engage in a meaningful debate on Ireland’s future over the coming weeks? If I were a betting woman I wouldn’t put my money on it.

Mary Lou McDonald is the deputy leader of Sinn Féin and a TD for Dublin Central

Mary Lou keeps her promise to write a letter to Varadkar>

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