The Irish Mail on Sunday
Just how does Mary Lou afford her luxury home?
MARY Lou McDonald cast herself as Joan of Arc of Dublin Central last week, a martyr burning for citizens’ right to the truth. But the people’s tribune was less forthcoming when I asked her about her personal finances in a radio interview.
A feature in this newspaper in May 2011 showed off the Sinn Féin deputy leader’s luxurious 11-room detached villa close to Phoenix Park.
The home looked like the sort of opulent pile where soap opera stars pose in celebrity magazines.
Ms McDonald and her family’s photo spread could have been categorised as what anti-austerity campaigners now call ‘property porn’.
Designed by leading architects, the 254sq.m, two-storey villa is almost three times the size of the average Irish house, which runs only to 88.3sqm.
The ground floor has a living room, a dining hall, a family room, a kitchen, a study/meeting room, playroom, guest bedroom and bathroom.
Four bedrooms and three bathrooms are on the first floor, where there are skylights and solar panels.
IN 2011, TDs earned €92,672. On her website at that time, Mary Lou said: ‘I stand up for the people. And just like other Sinn Féin TDs, I only take home the average industrial wage (€41,800 in May 2011). Political reform needs to start with politicians.’ Her husband, Martin Lanigan, a Bord Gáis employee, had secured planning permission in 2010 for the house on Dublin’s Cabra Road, close to Tánaiste Joan Burton’s semidetached home.
How, I asked, could anyone earning the average industrial wage and a spouse in the public utility, afford to build such a luxurious home? I’m still none the wiser. Maybe Ms McDonald and her husband Martin have wealthy and generous relatives; perhaps they asked for anonymity after a big win on the Lotto.
Ms McDonald was abroad on holiday last week when her TD peers made a finding that she had abused her parliamentary privilege.
And she doesn’t appear to mind if the former ministers and others she effectively accused of criminal tax fraud are guilty or not – although all of them have vehemently denied her allegations.
Yet if she makes the same claims outside the Dáil, she can be asked to prove the truth of her accusations in a court and compensate those she accused if she can’t.
When she abused parliamentary privilege by making the allegations, I believe that Mary Lou forfeited the right to personal financial confidentiality.
Yet her colleagues in Sinn Féin were standing by her right to make accusations of criminality against former politicians of whom she does not approve. Will she put up, or shut up?
My guess is that she will do both: First, preserve her entitlement to say what she wants under parliamentary privilege; then maintain her right to silence when she does not enjoy parliamentary privilege.
No one I know believed her allegations in the Public Accounts Committee that the former politicians she named held Ansbacher accounts. And neither did the gardaí, the Revenue and all the other agencies that investigated the same allegations through more than 10 years.
I believe that her performance in the Dáil last December was a publicity stunt to deflect attention from Sinn Féin and the IRA when they were accused of burying allegations of sexual abuse.