McDonald defends 'clout' question to Noirin O'Sullivan amid sexism claims

The Sinn Féin deputy questioned Commissioner O'Sullivan at the PAC

McDonald defends 'clout' question to Noirin O'Sullivan amid sexism claims

Composite image shows Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan | Image: RollingNews.ie/Jack Quann

Mary Lou Mc Donald has defended her questions to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan yesterday amid claims of sexism.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader asked Commissioner O'Sullivan on the record if she carries any clout as a woman.

"What clout do you carry? I'm conscious you're the first woman in the job - and I'm trying to establish here... do you carry the level of clout required for a person who is in charge?".

In response, Commissioner O'Sullivan said: "I, as the Comissioner and the accounting officer of An Garda Síochána, have responsibility that I delegate to individuals".

The exchange between the two woman took place during a sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday, which is investigating finances at the garda training college.

Deputy Mc Donald told Newstalk Breakfast she was just trying to find out if Commissioner O'Sullivan has the power she needs to do her job.

"I was asking the question of Noirin O'Sullivan - because I wanted to know, and I think it's important to ask - was there, is there some dynamic around her being the first woman in the job that in any way impedes, limits or frustrates the authority that she has to carry to carry out her task."

Ms McDonald said she was not singling out Noirin O'Sullivan or any other woman in a senior position in public life, "but when you take on the job you have to carry out the functions, you're either competent or you're not", she added.

"But I am conscious that in an organisation, and there are clearly big cultural issues within An Garda Síochána - we saw that around the whole Maurice McCabe debacle for example - so I don't think it's a stretch to ask and to inquire where stands the culture in respect of women within the ranks.

"And particularly in a scenario where, for the first time, a woman is in charge".

She denied that a male politician in the same position would have been criticised.

"I wish more male politicians and commentators and others would ask that question.

"Sexism is alive and well in society at large, and it manifests itself in large, bureaucratic organisations - and particularly ones that have traditionally been very, very male."