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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Sam Boal/ Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Parnell Square

Tánaiste calls on McDonald to apologise for sharing image online of man sitting on steps near school stabbing location

Mary Lou McDonald today defended her actions.

LAST UPDATE | 17 hours ago

TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has called on Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald to apologise for tweeting a photo of a man drinking from a can on Parnell Square nearby Gaelscoil Choláiste Mhuire where a stabbing took place last week. 

The Sinn Féin leader today defended posting the photo to X on Wednesday morning. The photo was later held up in the Dáil by Louise O’Reilly TD, who said that it “represents what Dublin city feels like” under the current government.

She said: “Minister, this is what greeted those children six days after the traumatic and horrific event that happened to three of their classmates and one of their staff members.”

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said yesterday that there was no reason to intervene yesterday when Sinn Féin held up the image in the Dáil. 

Speaking in Dundalk today, Martin said the Sinn Féin leader “tweeted a photograph of a potentially vulnerable individual adjacent to the school”, highlighting that the photo was also displayed in Dáil Eireann.

“I think that was a shocking thing to do. I would call on the Sinn Féin leader to apologise for doing that,” he said, stating it is “something I haven’t seen before”. 

“The Sinn Féin leader should apologise and withdraws that tweet,” added Martin.

McDonald was questioned at a press conference this afternoon about the tweet. 

She said that “every day when those kids come and go from school there are people, vulnerable people, but people consuming alcohol or drugs, or selling drugs, hanging around the school”.

“It’s been an ongoing worry for parents and for teachers,” McDonald said. 

She said when children returned to the school on Monday following Thursday’s incident, “everything was reasonably ok”. 

However, McDonald claimed that for the school community on Tuesday to see a person “in an intoxicated state” near the school sent a message that “nothing’s changed … it’s still ok, despite the fact that we have had a very serious, unprecedented stabbing issue, it’s still ok for people to hang around here”.

“Let me just be very, very clear. Nobody should be hanging around that school.

“I tweeted that photograph to show exactly what it is that met the parents who arrived to collect their children five days after a serious stabbing incident.”

In her tweet of the photo McDonald said three small children and a teacher had been stabbed “here at Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire” and “this is pick up time at same school yesterday”.

The tweet now carries a “community note” drawing attention to the context that the picture was not taken directly outside the school but rather shows another building. The other building is on the same street.

Sinn Féin has insisted that neither McDonald nor O’Reilly claimed the photo was taken at the school’s entrance.

The man, whose face is not visible in the photo, appears to be drinking from a can.

He is apparently sitting on a step at a location beside the school, but not on the school steps.

Sinn Féin said that the photo and the comments from party members sought to highlight that “people do not feel safe in their communities”.

“It was never claimed that this was a photo of the school, but that it was in the vicinity as children left the school.”

When asked whether Sinn Féin is now equating homelessness and alcoholism with antisocial behaviour, McDonald said: “No, we’re not. I think you’ll know that no party has been more active or will be more active in terms of advocating for the homeless and for homes for rough sleepers, sofa surfers, people who have been failed by the Government.” 

The Sinn Féin leader said that “people are vulnerable because the State and successive governments have left them in vulnerable positions, there’s no question about that, people have been failed in terms of service provision and care”.

“That does not mean that at schools and in working class communities that it is ok or tolerable that you have just routine anti-social behaviour,” she said. 

When asked if she thought her tweet showed a lack of compassion, McDonald said: “No, absolutely not.” 

Reaction to photo in Dáil

Responding in the Dáil on Wednesday to O’Reilly holding up the image, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that everyone has a “role to be responsible in this House”.

“I think you should consider that before you start waving pictures around.”

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan also criticised McDonald’s tweet, saying: “There is no need to tweet this man’s photo as if there is a direct link to people who live or occupy inner city streets and the events of last week. This is ill advised and unfair.”

Meanwhile, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said O’Reilly’s actions in the Dáil were “disgusting”.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Ó Ríordáin said: “Absolutely disgusting behaviour by SF in the Dáil chamber today waving a printed out photograph of a clearly vulnerable individual.”

Ó Ríordáin added that McDonald’s tweet was “outrageous from someone who wants to be Taoiseach.”

“If a FG minister did this they’d have to resign,” he added.

With reporting by Mairead Maguire, Jane Matthews and Christina Finn