Sinn Féin can talk the talk about democracy but are willing to "throw it aside" when it suits their political needs, the Taoiseach said as the row rumbled on over Thursday’s Dáil sit-in which brought parliamentary business to a halt.
Speaking in New York, Enda Kenny said it was “utterly reprehensible” for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to “cast aspersions about the freedom of the press to write their stories”.
Responding to comments by Mr Adams about a newspaper editor being held at gun-point, which have been criticised by the National Union of Journalists, Mr Kenny said: “To give any threat, implied or otherwise, I find is utterly reprehensible and disgraceful.
“Sometimes I don’t like what the press might say about me, and I suppose every politician would be the same.
“But a fundamental tenet of our democracy is freedom of expression and the capacity of the press, and those who work in the press, to do their job.”
Sinn Féin is considering proposing a motion of no confidence in Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, whom the party accused of acting as a “shield” against scrutiny of Government.
During Thursday’s leaders’ questions, Mr Barrett ruled Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald out of order and called a vote to suspend her.
She had been questioning Tánaiste Joan Burton on whether social welfare payments would be deducted for those who did not pay water charges, and refused to sit down at the Ceann Comhairle’s request.
The party staged a four-hour sit-in before coming out to the Dáil plinth, where Mr Adams told the media the basic tenet of parliamentary democracy — holding the Government to account — does not function in the Dáil.
The incident has been described as a “stunt” to divert attention from Sinn Féin’s treatment of Belfast rape victim Maíria Cahill, whose case was the subject of a Dáil debate on Wednesday.
Government chief whip Paul Kehoe said Ms McDonald’s behaviour was “absolutely outrageous” and she “refused to acknowledge and respect the rules of the house”. He told the Irish Examiner: “Sinn Féin want to make up their own rules as they go along; they don’t respect democracy.”
The Taoiseach added: “It seems as if Sinn Féin can say ‘well we talk about democracy but we don’t actually believe in it when it affects ourselves’.” He said Sinn Féin were “talking about understanding democracy but when it suits themselves they can throw it aside”.
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