Ireland

McDonald defends sharing picture of person sitting ‘near scene of knife attack’

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media outside Leinster House (PA)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media outside Leinster House (PA) Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media outside Leinster House (PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has defended sharing a photo online depicting a person sitting on steps that she claimed was near the scene of an attack in which three children were injured.

A five-year-old girl is in critical condition in hospital and two other children were injured after the attack near a school on Parnell Square East in Dublin’s inner city.

A woman aged in her 30s who was a carer, and who has been called “heroic” in how she tried to protect children during the attack, is also seriously injured.

Gardai said the person of interest in the case is receiving treatment in hospital.

Ms McDonald said that families at the school feel “forgotten and ignored” in the wake of the attack, as riots that broke out near the crime scene in the hours after the attack grabbed national and international focus.

On Tuesday, the Sinn Fein leader shared a photo on the social media site X depicting a person drinking on a doorstep and said it was taken at “pick-up time” near the school days after the knife attack took place.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly also showed the photo in the Dail chamber this week, stating that it encompassed how Dublin city feels to some people.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Labour leader Ivana Bacik criticised waving the photo of an “identifiable” person as “point scoring” and “outrageous grandstanding”.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Ms McDonald denied that sharing the photo showed a lack of compassion.

She said “nobody should be hanging around that school” near where the attack occurred, and said she shared the photo because she wanted people to see what families at the school saw.

She added: “Families and the school community are very angry. They’re very angry at for two reasons. Number one, they believe that there was a limited focus on the fact that small children (and creche manager Leanne Flynn) had been very gravely injured, that the story and the attention moved on very quickly.

“And they feel that they have now been forgotten and ignored.

“Their second reality is this. Every day, when those kids come and go from school, there are vulnerable people consuming alcohol or drugs or selling drugs hanging around the school. And it’s been an ongoing worry for parents and for teachers.

“And last Thursday, as the kids came out, at the worst nightmare occurred, a knife was produced, children were injured and Leanne Flynn was badly injured.”

She said that when the children returned to school on Monday “everything was reasonably okay”, but they were met with a person on the steps on Tuesday “at the very spot where the stabbing occurred”.

She said: “And for them, that said a number of things. First of all, it said ‘nothing’s changed’. It said ‘it’s still okay despite the fact that we have had a very serious unprecedented stabbing incident, it’s still okay for people to hang around here’.

“So let me be very, very clear: nobody should be hanging around that school. And I tweeted that photograph to show exactly what it is that met the parents who arrived to collect their children five days after a serious stabbing incident at the school.”

She added: “I wish Fine Gael and Fianna Fail would see that image and I wish they’d respond to it.”

Asked if she regrets it, she said: “Absolutely not. There’s no polite way to come at this.

“The fact is, day in, day out it is the daily lived experience for people in inner city communities… of vulnerable people… engaged in taking drugs there’s people selling drugs, there’s all sorts.

“That doesn’t happen outside middle class schools – by the way, nor should it – and it shouldn’t happen outside Gaelscoil Cholaiste Mhuire.”