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Why wasn't Mary Lou quizzing Joan Burton in the Dáil today?

Mary Lou McDonald’s usual Thursday afternoon rumble with the Tánaiste didn’t go ahead today. Here’s why…

Mary Lou McDonald at the Public Accounts Committee today
Mary Lou McDonald at the Public Accounts Committee today
Image: Oireachtas TV

MARY LOU MCDONALD was conspicuous by her absence for Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil earlier with Aengus Ó Snodaigh instead asking questions on behalf of Sinn Féin.

Thursday is traditionally a day when opposition deputy leaders (although Fianna Fáil has no deputy leader) quiz the Tánaiste on issues of the day.

McDonald has had some particularly robust, entertaining and newsworthy exchanges with Burton in recent weeks. But not today.

Instead Ó Snodaigh was sent out to ask the Burton about cuts in the respite care grant.

This left some around Leinster House wondering if McDonald had either gone into hiding or had been sidelined in the wake of the controversy over Maíria Cahill and her staunch defence of Gerry Adams.

Adams was subjected to a series of difficult questions from Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the Cahill controversy during yesterday’s Leaders’ Questions and Sinn Féin may have been keen to avoid the matter being raised again.

However, it transpires that McDonald was at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for much of the morning and early afternoon. This isn’t unusual: the Dublin Central TD usually spends part of her Thursday morning at PAC until Leaders’ Questions.

But today she took the opportunity to remain in Committee Room 1 in Leinster House to quiz officials from the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board about the National Children’s Hospital.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson insisted that this was nothing to do with McDonald “hiding in the PAC”  in a bid to avoid having to deal with the Cahill revelations in the Dáil.

The spokesperson insisted: “She was the second questioner, she hasn’t been the second questioner in months. She’s dealing with the National Children’s Hospital – one of the biggest developments in the State. So there is a very legitimate reason why she was not doing Leaders’ Questions.”

They added that Ó Snodaigh had held a comprehensive briefing with respite care groups this week and was keen to question the Tánaiste about the issue in the Dáil.

Read: Here’s what did happen at Leaders’ Questions today 

State of the Nation: What effect will Maíria Cahill’s claims have on Sinn Féin?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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