Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald accused of 'disgraceful political stunt' in bizarre Dail sit-in

By Niall O'Connor

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has been accused of a "disgraceful political stunt" after she staged a bizarre sit-in in the Dail and brought the day's business to a halt.

Ms McDonald is refusing to leave the chamber after she was formally suspended following a vote by TDs.

The extraordinary protest by Ms McDonald comes just a day after Sinn Fein was castigated over its handling of child sex abuse allegations and the Mairia Cahill affair.

Fine Gael TD for Dublin North Alan Farrell likened her actions to a "disgraceful political stunt", while his party colleague Patrick O'Donovan said Sinn Fein is trying to deflect public attention away from IRA sex abuse.

The Dail business will remain suspended until 2pm on Tuesday unless Ms McDonald agrees to leave the chamber this afternoon.

The farcical scenes unfolded following heated exchanges between Tanaiste Joan Burton and Ms McDonald at 'Leaders' Questions' today.

Ms McDonald became furious after the Labour Party leader failed to answer questions over water charges.

The Sinn Fein politician then refused to take her seat - prompting the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the house pending a vote.

The majority of TDs voted to eject Ms McDonald but she refused to leave.

Ms McDonald remained in her seat and was flanked on either side by colleagues including party president Gerry Adams.

Confusion reigned for over two hours as TDs queried whether the Ceann Comhairle would return so that 'Leaders' Questions' could resume.

But in accordance with Dail procedures, Mr Barrett remained outside the chamber while the suspended deputy was inside.

After over 90 minutes of a standstill, the Tanaiste returned to collect her notes.

She muttered that the actions of Ms McDonald were "wasting everybody's time".

Sinn Fein TDs responded angrily to the claim and criticised Ms Burton for refusing to answer specific questions on water charges.

Ms Burton responded by saying that she "does not have the answers" at present but that the matter will be clarified next week.

The Tanaiste then remarked that the actions of Sinn Fein in relation to their handling of child sex abuse allegations and the Mairia Cahill affair had "offended" people.

Sinn Fein TD Sandra McLellan responded that Ms Burton should not be making such "allegations".

After the Tanaiste left the Dail, it's understood she met the Ceann Comhairle over the farcical events.

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