Mary Lou McDonald’s claim that Shane Ross’ biography is a screed that she could have rubbished during her summer holidays is one of her many claims that do not stack up. Ross’ biography is a solid piece of work evidenced, inter alia, by the strong backroom team he had working on it all of whom, along with disgruntled IRA Army Council members who collaborated with him, all of which he salutes in the acknowledgements.
McDonald’s faux outrage that Ross thrashed her family background likewise does not stand up to scrutiny. The fact that she, along with the rest of her family, suffered immensely as a result of an unscrupulous solicitor defrauding her father, is not her fault and nor is it the fault of any of her family, her father included.
Though Ross does mention that her eldest brother is a transexual and her sister spent some years as a leading member of Éirígí, which the Provos set up to cleanse them of their more militant Republican wing, he does not dwell on those matters but devotes much more time to McDonald’s mansion in Cabra’s more salubrious parts, where her neighbours included her former Sinn Féin colleague Jonathan Dowdall, who is currently helping the state prosecute Gerry Hutch, one of her constituents.
The book gives before and after pictures of the house, a small bungalow which McDonald, in the name of her reclusive husband, bought and which they got top designers, architects and engineers to transform into a veritable mini palace. Ross, the former business editor of the Sunday Independent, rounded up a posse of his professional buddies to value the house and to assess the probability of McDonald and her husband paying for the pile. The posse’s verdict is the McDonald family could not have paid the mortgage on the family mansion and that others, the Provisional IRA perhaps, might have given her a dig out, the same sort of dig out Bertie Ahern got in days gone by.
Either way, McDonald, like Ahern and Charlie Haughey before her, should explain the source of her wealth, which could not have been accrued when she drew the average industrial wage as part of Sinn Féin’s PR holier than thou policy. Like Ahern and Haughey, she must have had rich benefactors.
Although Ross cites Dowdall and other local entrepreneurs, who funded her, there had to have been others giving far more to both her and her Sinn Féin colleagues, many of whom like Brendan Hughes, author of Up Like a Bird, which Ross often cites, were not averse to robbing banks to enrich themselves rather than their godfathers. Not only McDonald but Sinn Féin’s other elect must explain the source of their own wealth and whether it was stolen, donated or what.
This is particularly important when we look at how McDonald and, presumably, her sister, joined the Provos. Ross, incredibly, names sources who claim that tens of thousands of euros and free holidays in Spain were on the table to lure McDonald away from Fianna Fail into Sinn Féin. It seems, from those nuggets, that McDonald made a Faustian pact, that she is a bought woman who remains bought.
Although Ross quotes McDonald, Adams-like, denying she was ever a member of Fianna Fáil, whose Ard Fheis she is on record as addressing as a delegate, there is something particularly murky as to how Rita O’Hare and others used the Irish National Congress to groom McDonald and other “Manchurian Candidates” by either fair means or foul.
Although McDonald’s belated conversion to the Adams personality cult is not, in itself, a hanging offence, it is the spectre or shadow that hangs over it all that creaks in the night. It seems that, perhaps even before she joined Fianna Fáil, that Gerry Adams’ Belfast inner circle had picked McDonald as Brownie’s heir apparent. Although Ross, who worked with McDonald on the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee is fulsome in his praise for McDonald’s abilities, it is that ghoulish spectre, that shadow, that Faustian pact, those Provo skeletons in the cupboard that cause unease.
Although Ross mentions the child sexual abuse that embroiled the Adams family, the murder of Jean McConville in which Adams was implicated, the rape allegations in which Joe Cahill’s family were implicated and even Belfast crimes going back to the 1940s, there is something yet more sinister there that writers like Kevin Myers and Ed Moloney have previously referred to.
It seems that there was and probably still is an inner circle of secretive Belfast families, who have been implicated in the most unspeakable of crimes against women and children, who regarded all their IRA volunteers, as well as their families, as expendable pawns to be used and, yes, (sexually) abused and that these sinister people still control the shots both in the literal and metaphorical senses.
Dixie Elliot, the Derry blogger who once shared a prison cell with Bobby Sands and whom Ross extensively quotes, has said as much on several occasions. He cites instances of the mothers of IRA prisoners having to hitchhike from Strabane or Derry to Long Kesh to visit their INLA sons and the Sinn Féin minibus drivers not picking them up because they were visiting the wrong son. Then you have Sinn Féin’s POW Dept. covertly taping those same mothers for their own perverse amusement and robbing family heirlooms from their homes.
This, rather than the spectre of communism, is the spectre that haunts Sinn Féin and that will almost certainly haunt all of Ireland when and if Mary Lou comes to power. And as with the rise of Hitler and Germany, it seems we can do very little about it but brace ourselves for the worst unless that group of incestuous Belfast families and their enablers are divided and fully conquered, as happened with the Workers Party and the Official IRA some decades ago and is now happening in the Special Criminal Court with some of McDonald’s more colourful constituents.
As against that, there are some rumblings currently afoot, not only in the Special Criminal Court where the dirty linen of Mary Lou’s inner city Dublin constituency is being aired but also in East Wall’s Old ESB Building, which lies at the edge of McDonald’s fiefdom where her Sinn Féin party is part of the problem, rather than the solution which lies in empowering the ordinary people, something that is anathema to Adams’ Belfast crew.
Although Ross is no Samuel Johnson, he has done the state some great service with this work which, whilst acknowledging that McDonald has no blood on her blouse, asks a lot of important questions. More to the point, he says that, given McDonald’s relative youth, there are at least two more volumes about her life that will have to be written.
Hopefully though someone of Ross’ calibre will emerge to write those times, the real hope has to be that the Irish electorate will, however, belatedly, awake and reject not only the sinister crew that sits at the court of Gerry Adams but all their Manchurian and Dublin candidates as well.‘
Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle’, Shane Ross, Atlantic Books, €16.99