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Joan Burton Squares Off With Mary Lou McDonald

marylou

Heated debate took place this morning on Newstalk between two of the most prominent women in Irish politics. After tossing over the topical issues of the day the segment developed into a scrap on Sinn Fein’s legacy of association with Republican violence.

Burton criticised a lack of discussion and transparency on what she called recently at a Labour conference the ‘Sinn Fein – IRA nexus’. Some certainly may be tired of Burton’s approach, the usual refuge of Irish politicians who come under fire from Sinn Fein TD’s. Mary Lou retorted with a very articulate criticism of Eamon Gilmore’s alleged involvement with Official IRA groups. However there is no doubt that many Irish people are still troubled by the issue Burton discussed and it seems likely that Sinn Fein will have to distance itself further from association with the republican violence. Although the significant ground made by Sinn Fein was the main story of the recent elections, it should also be noted that many middle-leaning voters seem to have favoured the disgraced Fianna Fail party over Sinn Fein. This, in the face of the fact that we were voting against a government that has implemented several unpopular austerity budgets, tells us Sinn Fein have not yet moved into the political mainstream of Ireland.

Sinn Fein are strongest in inner city areas in Cork and Dublin, but outside of the country’s urbanised areas they are much weaker. A significant voter bloc of voters are unwilling to vote for a party still headed by Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, who are both widely believed to significantly downplay their role in provisional IRA violence. Mary Lou McDonald is an intelligent, articulate and educated politician who will likely someday become leader of her party in the South. However in the recent controversy over the arrest and questioning of Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald clearly pinned her colours to the mast by defending him vigorously. This cult allegiance to Adams hinders the electoral popularity of the party and prevents them from providing a credible left alternative to the mainstream of Irish voters.

Image courtesy of RTE

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