SF must play to same rules as rest of us, says Labour leader Ivana Bacik
– 1h ago
Sinn Féin must be subject to the same level of public scrutiny as all other parties, Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said.
Asked about an ongoing libel action by Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald against RTÉ, and a legal threat by her husband against a biographer, Ms Bacik said she was concerned at a trend by public figures resorting to legal action.
“What concerns me somewhat is to see extensive use of the defamation laws by elected representatives,” Ms Bacik told Newstalk radio.
“We are public figures and there is a level of public accountability that has to be there in the media.”
Ms Bacik said she could not comment on the content of a biography of Mary Lou McDonald by former government minister Shane Ross as she had yet to read it. The book has led Ms McDonald’s husband, Martin Lanigan, to threaten legal proceedings over questions raised by the author about the couple’s financing of the purchase and refurbishment of a house in Dublin’s Cabra.
But the Labour leader stressed “one very big opposition party” – Sinn Féin – required the same level of scrutiny as the Government parties and all others.
“Media scrutiny is not always comfortable of course. But at the same time it is hugely necessary and important in a democracy,” Ms Bacik said.
The Labour leader said she had long called for reform of libel laws which limited scrutiny and investigation of important issues. “I think it’s just very wrong to see elected representatives taking to litigation extensively,” she added.
Ms Bacik said she had never taken a libel action against a media organisation. But she had been threatened with libel suits due to media comments she had made. “It has a very chilling effect,” she said.
Ms McDonald defended her stance on using legal actions yesterday. She told the Business Post that society needed freedom of the media, but public representatives also needed to defend their reputations.
She said it was about finding a balance between these two competing principles. She also disagreed with assertions she had seriously curbed her media appearances since Mr Ross’s book, Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle, was published on October 6.
At that stage it was understood the Sinn Féin leader was unwell and unable to attend at Leinster House. But she has been notably absent from all impromptu media outings by other party leading lights.
Last week Ms McDonald did some media interviews relating to the Northern Ireland power-sharing impasse. But she has yet to publicly address the questions about the house purchase funding which were posed by Mr Ross.
Mr Ross insists he is not alleging wrong-doing, just seeking the kind of transparency she has insisted upon from others. But the legal move against RTÉ, and the failure to address Mr Ross’s questions, has caused political opponents to criticise Ms McDonald and her party.
Earlier this month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin suggested the threatened legal action against the broadcaster could leave the station taking a more cautious approach in dealing with Sinn Féin.
Campaigners have been seriously critical of Ms McDonald and Sinn Féin, alleging they were engaging in legal intimidation in their dealings with media in recent times.