Mary Lou McDonald says she was so moved by the plight of sobbing mica families in the Dáil’s public gallery that she decided to put down the upcoming motion of no confidence in the Government.
On Wednesday the Government lost its majority after Donegal TD Joe McHugh rebelled over legislation pertaining to its mica redress scheme.
Campaigners say the bill will leave many mica homeowners thousands of euros out of pocket and Ms McDonald said the distress of those affected forced her to act.
“Taxpayers, decent people who have done nothing wrong, looking to Government to have their back to support them, to be fair with them, marching out - some of them sobbing - and Government benches shrugging their shoulders,” she recalled to On The Record with Gavan Reilly.
“For me that moment, I think, just crystallised certainly just how bad things have gotten.
“So it’s now a decisive moment, people need to decide what they’re going to do and I think it is a choice between on the one hand saying, ‘This is a successful Government who should carry on’ - which to me is unthinkable.
“Or, ‘This is clearly shambolic and they’re out of time’.”
If the motion passes then there will be a General Election and Ms McDonald added that Ireland needed a fresh start:
“We now have a situation where we’re two years into this administration,” she continued.
“We have clear evidence of very spectacular failure, a lack of leadership, even at times a lack of basic organisation on their part.
“And as they dealt with this issue of mica and pyrite and those families, for me that demonstrated I think most graphically why it is now time to call time on them and time for them to go.”
'A complete waste of Dáil time'
However, Fine Gael have accused Sinn Féin of wasting their time with the motion:
“Sinn Féin’s latest stunt will be a complete waste of Dáil time,” Minister Peter Burke complained.
“The Government and Fine Gael are completely focused on tackling the issues that impact on people’s lives, and Sinn Féin’s politically motivated motion will simply take valuable Dáil time away from that work.”
Few observers expect the motion to pass; Mr McHugh will probably still vote with the Government - as will two exiled Green TDs.
However, Ms McDonald said the Government shouldn’t take anything for granted:
“If it was such a foregone conclusion then it’s unusual to see reports in the media that the Taoiseach, the head of Government, apparently is making rounds of phone calls to people to urge them, to convince them to back this Government again,” she noted.
“Nothing in political life is ever a foregone conclusion.”
Main image: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald arriving at the Convention Centre Dublin for a Dáil session, 15-07-2020. Image: Brian Lawless/PA Archive/PA Images