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When I was getting closer to exam time during the leaving search, I wasn't sure if I was going to get the points for myself. My mother actually went around and just kind of thinking, is their back routes into it? Because usually you can like what we thought initially as you can kind of go through and do masters and things like that. So it was it was kind of a dream come true. When you hear it, there's that way true.


It was actually a great opportunity for me. So I took up, took it up straight away.


So your future is what you make us further education and training.


Find out more at this factory that Pat Kenny show on Newstalk. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, good morning and welcome. Good morning. Now let's talk, first of all, about the topics of the day and I suppose being labeled a Stazi state because food servers have to keep a record of your meal for 28 days. What's your reaction to these new rules?


Well, I think the terminology Stazi state is is an overstatement past, and I think we need to be careful not to use terminology or language that that heightens tension or anxiety in an already tense and anxious environment. I think it is astonishing that we discover that there had been no proper consultation with the industry in advance of this coming into being.


I can't understand why that is the case. I mean, let's face it, there has been so much discussion around pubs and hospitality and can be open. And when they might open, under what circumstances they might open, that is, I am dumbstruck at the fact that we now hear, you know, annoyance from the industry that there hadn't been a proper consultation or a proper heads up that this was planned.


I'm also concerned that any regulations that are introduced and we have to regulate and make social spaces, controlled environments, as they're called, we need to mitigate risk. We need to minimize risk to make people safe. So I think everybody accepts that and there have to be rules.


But these rules, what do you think of these rules? You know, Mary Lou McDonald goes out and I have to record that she had a prawn cocktail and a pizza, and I have to keep that for 28 days. I mean, are we ready?


Yeah, no, I think that's nuts. I mean, I think and my concern is the point I was making is that any rules and regulations need to be operable.


They need to be credible. There has to be a public sense.


And those that have to actually abide by and operate the rules that are necessary, that they make sense. And I just think this has left things open to ridicule, quite frankly, and people raising their eyebrows and throwing their hands up in exasperation.


Can I also say that I was we took our our family break in Wexford and we were all around the ring of hook and all around that that part of Wexford in and out of different places. Myself and my other half of the kids. And I have to tell you, everywhere I went, they had the rules down to a T. They operated them in a way that still made you feel really welcome. Really well, you know, great hospitality, really well catered for.


But all within the public health guidelines, it was really, really impressive. So unlike others who feel that perhaps rules will be broken everywhere I left, right and centre, I think the rule breakers are the exception, not the rule.


Is this not is this a regime that they're proposing? Is it not just saying? We believe that generally speaking, this industry is full of chancers. Well, that's that's certainly I can understand how people would take that interpretation and look, I just think I think that's a wrong position. And I've seen the, you know, the social media footage and the reports where things have gone very wrong and where people were caught bang to rights just completely, you know, not just breaking the rules for pushing the boat way out.


And I know that that caused concern and I know it caused real annoyance to other people within the industry. But but I have to tell you, my experience, limited as it is, is that people are very not alone playing by the book, really anxious to play by the book, because all of us know that to keep to keep the show on the road and to keep our society open, you know, we need to be thoughtful and mindful.


We need to be aware of the rules and regulations that have to be credible. And then we have to we have to implement them. And I think it's just a pity now, particularly at the point where it seems to me that the discussion around what are called Wetherby's and I have to tell you, I don't know where that terminology came from, but there you go. But the idea that I hope the cases in general might reopen is on the cards.


Everyone knows that that has to be done safely, as safely as is possible. And we really don't need now, in my view, a distraction by government through just sloppiness and just bad practice and not using their heads and actually their common sense and and talking to the industry and not bouncing people and and, you know, pulling rabbits out of hats and producing rules that have given rise rise to widespread derision.


Much, much of the criticism of the rules is even the new rules proposed by the minister for Justice on guard the powers to close down pubs or to seek closure for seven or 30 days. You know, how is it to be enforced correctly saying, will anyone ever look at these receipts?


Well, well, look, just on the on the issue of of the guard, the powers and they are extraordinary powers. And by the way, your listeners should know that they are timeline's I mean, this runs into November. So these are timeline for a number of weeks. I actually think if if we're saying that we want to open up the social spaces that are public houses, and I think there are very strong arguments for that. We also have to accept that the authorities will have a strong hand when it comes to enforcement, because the worst case scenario passed would be that we would take these actions, these moves to to loosen things up and to get people back to social interaction and so on.


And then we have what some would fear would be a kind of free for all. And then you have the virus spreading like crazy and then you're back into a situation B as a county or a district or the whole state that you're back into lockdown, that nobody wants to go there. So actually, I support the idea that you would have strong sanctions and that are clearly understood and that they're that they are operable. I think that is fair. And what's not fair enough is to introduce things that sound a bit wacky and a bit of theme and to my ear.


And I'm you know, I appreciate that the government is handling a very difficult situation. So I don't want to be critical just for the sake of us. But this business of keeping records of, you know, did you have you know, did you have jelly and ice cream or did you go for the apple pie? Is it's just not not the place that we should be in this in this public conversation.


The other story of the day is MEPs seeking an exemption saying right throughout Europe, MEPs can come and go to their resident countries from Brussels or from Strasbourg, and they want the same here.


And we have Eamon Ryan talking about maybe belatedly introducing testing at airports so that quarantining wouldn't be necessary and that might help the aviation industry. What's your view of an exemption, an exemption for MEPs?


Well, the work that MEPs do is essential work in their travel is not for leisure or indeed for pleasure, be coming home for leisure work.


You know what I mean? And they work and work a day in Brussels or in Strasbourg. And then they come home and they may well play a round of golf in the local golf club when they come home. Yeah, sure.


But the point that at the point that I'm making pasta is their travel off the island is for the purposes of work and it's for the purposes of of governance and public administration and to represent the people that elected them. And I think there has to be some mechanism needs to be agreed to allow our public representatives, our members of the European Parliament, to do just that. So I think certainly testing for them would be an essential component of that. And then, of course, you need public health guidance as to whether or not, in addition to that, there is a necessary period of not self isolation, but limiting of movements like we don't have.


What what you would really understand as a strict quarantine regime on this island, what we have is and have had is actually quite a confused and confusing situation where people would fill in a form societies where they are. It's now gone online. But that's only a recent innovation. And the idea is that people would be checked up on just to see are you there to verify that people were acting in accordance with the guidance. But of course, that didn't happen.


We've argued for a long time passed, and my colleague Darren O'Rourke, who's our spokesperson in this area, has argued for a long time that we need testing at our airports.


But the point of all of this is suppose in the next two weeks we change the rules or even tomorrow we give an exemption to MEPs. I'm just thinking it would seem like this change would have saved Phil Hogan's skin. And it really makes the loss of Phil Hogan even more ridiculous than many people think it is. If they suddenly change the rules for people who work in Brussels and moved occasionally back and forth to the island of Ireland, I mean, it would seem that losing Phil Hogan was an act of utter stupidity if they do this.


Well, look, I think that that scenario aside, you asked me about MEPs and their capacity to discharge their duties. I mean, that's what they're elected to do. And I think that we need to find a safe way that actually enables them to do that was a different political point.


If they do this for MEPs, won't it looked like the loss of Phil Hogan was unnecessary?


Well, look, the truth is that that Phil Hogan lost his position because the government had lost faith in him. No, they hadn't.


You see, this is the point. And each one of the leaders was asked, do they have faith, confidence in Phil Hogan's ability to do his job? And they all said they had each one of them.


Well, look, that might be the case. And it's not for me. They can answer this question for themselves, because this really is a question for them. But they had lost they made it clear that in their view, that he could not and should not continue as commissioner. And really, when the government of the day, including the, you know, those that appointed him to that position when they arrive at that space, I think that the political reality is and that it was it was impossible, really, for him to continue on in his position, more generally speaking, all that.


But I'm just saying that if we were to do this for MEPs now, wouldn't it make us look utterly stupid, having lost Phil Hogan on the trade portfolio, it looks as if that's gone.


Well, look, I don't I don't think that recognising that in this case that MEPs, you know, public officials have to do their work and that they need to be they need to be supported in doing that in a way that is safe. I don't think that makes anybody look stupid at all. I think what does make people raise their eyebrows and even consider like that may be the political system is a bit stupid, is when people saw as they saw in Galway, again, you know, a mixture of like politics and, you know, banking.


You know, those that lobby on behalf of bankers and what might be termed the merchant. Who are they both on the golf course.


So lobbyists are very poor. We've a very bad history in this in this state.


Are you talking about a former MEP?


You're talking about a former MEP who now works for I mean, that's a bit rich because he was a member of the Iraq and a member of the European Parliament.


Yes, and he's now the senior the senior lobbyist on behalf of. It doesn't stop him having a few mates that he might play a sport with, you know?


Well, it well, you may see it that way. But I have to tell you, I would wager that the vast bulk of people don't see it that way, particularly given that we have had very, very bad experiences of an overfamiliarity, let's say, between those in the world of banking and those in the world of politics. And given also that that was it was accepted after the last crash that those entanglements needed to be disentangled and that we need to transparency in that matters, quite frankly, had to be put on the banks.


Bear in mind, the citizens that bailed out that situation, I think take a very different view around cosy rounds of golf. And I have to tell you, as somebody active in political life, that was that was a bad day. I was for for politics because that's the stuff of the past. And in my view, the coronavirus, you know, environment notwithstanding, which, of course, has heightened people's anxiety and exasperation in some cases. But that type of old garbage day out, that that's over.


And I think people want that to be over. And I'm I'm sorry that it seems that there tends to be for so long to catch up.


You know, it's not that Sinn Fein is without offence in these matters because we know, for example, Sinn Fein councillor went on Hollinger's to the Canary Islands in breach of the government's guidelines. And the reason was they couldn't get a refund after the holiday, so they didn't want to lose it.


We can all understand understand that on a human level, but on a political level, it's, you know, bad optics and that's what they talk about. Phil Hogan, bad optics. They don't think that Phil Hogan was spreading covid around having been tested and all the rest of it, but bad optics. And then there was the whole thing of the Bobby Storey funeral, not just the attendance of huge numbers of people unmasked and in close proximity, but also the derogation that was given to the family to attend the actual funeral bit when other families were excluded from the cremation.


So, you know, you're not without sin.


So casting stones is a hazardous exercise.


Yeah, and I'm not casting stones here. I'm stating categorically that the old politics of the insider class, back slapping each other is not alone. A bad look at that. Politics is over. I mean, the politics of change now is the order of the day. I'm making that point and I stand by it as regards the councillor going on the family holiday. And of course, we can all understand that on a human level, they couldn't get a refund.


Loads of families were in that position. Some decided to travel. I have to tell you, lots and lots didn't. And I understand that on it. It's a big outlay, your family holiday. But she shouldn't have travelled. She absolutely accepts that. And in fact, she she has she's lost the whip with her from her council colleagues as as a result of that. So that shouldn't happen. I'm not I'm not on here trying to in any way put any gloss on that.


That was that was that was wrong. And and the cancer is well aware of that and deeply embarrassed in a more general way.


Mary Lou, in a more general way. I described the government and political malaise because that certainly everyone is not content, that this is a sure footed government. And I know that you believe that. But I'm just wondering, had it been different? I mean, do you feel lucky, for instance, that you didn't get into power, given the set of challenges that the government has? And then if you did get into power, it would be with the left to the people before profit, the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Socialists, whoever else that you could assemble into.


And I'm wondering, do you really believe that that wouldn't have the kind of fragmentations that this crowd of three parties has if you had a multiplicity of parties on the left trying to get it together, would you not be faced with the same sort of disarray? Well, look, to your first question, no, no, I don't feel lucky that we're not in government at the time I set my analysis hasn't changed. That's the worst outcome of the last election was Fianna Fail and Finical together.


And I think the evidence of the last number of months, I think demonstrates that I was and we were right in that assessment because we had many better.


That's the point. You know, the reason they seem to be quite candid is because there's three parties in government.


Each has their own agenda. They are an artificial construct. But so, too, except for the broad banner of left, so too would be an amalgamation of smaller parties with you in government. The Greens probably being the largest of those parties that would be constituent to a government led by you.


Well, look, I think the the difference is that we had and still want, let me emphasize to be in government, because housing policy is failing and failing spectacularly in this state, and that needs to change. We want to be in government because we know that people who get up early, who go out to work and work very, very hard, aren't getting the kinds of services and supports that they should rightfully expect in a modern. And let me let it be said, in a country where there is there is considerable wealth, we want to be in government because the two tiered, confused, under-resourced health system that we have simply doesn't work.


And by God, that has been exposed now in this coronaviruses crisis. So I said I think even in conversation with yourself, as I said, I was all of that. And that remains our position. The government we have at the minute was really a marriage of convenience or inconvenience solely and explicitly designed to keep that kind of change out. So they didn't get into government on any kind of shared and endorsed plan for the way ahead for the country.


Rather, they stated categorically and they wore as a badge of honor, as we all know, without rehearsing all of the gory details and that they weren't going to have any bars, Sinn Fein and by extension, that they wanted to hang on to things as they are. And the only way that they could do this was to get into government together. So they were not allowed to open up that chink to let the light in. And instead they've banded some people.


And the reason it's not the light that they were fearful of, it was the darkness that is in the background of Sinn Fein. And you know that as well as I do.


That was the reason, Malama, as well as as you do.


And I would say to you, and I hope you disavow the history of the troubles and the bombings and the killings and all of that that your party endorsed as the political wing of an armed movement. I don't think you've ever disavowed that.


Well, I would draw your attention to the fact that each of the parties in the practice and the two, what are called civil war parties, equally had an engagement and an attachment in in terms of the the history of conflict in Ireland. And I don't believe you have ever put that point to them and also put it to you that I am the leader of Sinn Fein now. I am a leader for now. I am a leader for the future.


And I also remind you that our party consists of thousands of people. Right, because there isn't any walk of life now in Ireland that that that does not have Sinn Fein members or supporters or Sinn Fein people in there.


We are absolutely in in the in the centre in the middle of the Irish political conversation and Irish political life and hundreds of thousands of outstandingly upstanding, marvelous people vote for us and rely on us to do the best job that we can for them. That's what I lead. That is a party that is progressive and about the future. And I have to tell you, and I know as well as anyone else, the dilemmas of the past and still the needs in terms of victims and survivors.


We have a big job collectively to do there. But I will I will never accept that that should be used to constantly reach for the past by people who just don't want us to to to build out a better future. I think that's wrong. And I reject this. Absolutely. We will leave it there.


A president of Sinn Fein and Mary Lou McDonald, thank you very much for joining us.


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