Mary Lou McDonald coming to Australia for fancy university dinner sparks uproar


Outrage erupts after Australian speaking tour is announced for leader of controversial Irish political party once linked to the IRA: ‘There’s no place for her here’

  • Calls for Mary Lou McDonald to be banned from speaking tour in Australia
  • She was invited to address graduates of elite university and business leaders 
  • Sinn Fein was linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during ‘The Troubles’

The expensively-dressed leader of a controversial political group is under fire after she announced planned visits to Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. 

Mary Lou McDonald, 53, has been the leader of Sinn Fein since 2018, the government’s opposition in the Republic of Ireland and the biggest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The party campaigns strongly on the reunification of Ireland and bringing an end to British jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein was linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during The Troubles, a period of brutal turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland that saw thousands die between 1969 and 1998.

In a matter of weeks, Ms McDonald is expected to touch down in Australia to speak to graduates of an elite Irish university and members of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC). 

But there are growing calls for Ms McDonald to use her political connections to try to find out who from the IRA murdered two Australians in the Netherlands in 1990. 

Her speaking tour of Australia has outraged those who oppose the IRA and those who have asked Ms McDonald to condemn the paramilitary group. 

David Flint, Chairman of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, told Daily Mail Australia there was ‘no place’ for Ms McDonald here.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (pictured), who is coming to Australia for a speaking tour, has regularly refused to condemn the IRA's three-decade campaign of terror

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (pictured), who is coming to Australia for a speaking tour, has regularly refused to condemn the IRA’s three-decade campaign of terror

‘I remember the time when the IRA apologised, Bob Hawke wouldn’t accept the apology. He dismissed it,’ Mr Flint said.

Mr Flint was referring to the IRA’s murder of Nick Spanos, 28, from Sydney and Stephen Melrose, 24, from Brisbane on May 27, 1990 in the Netherlands. 

The men had been working in London as lawyers and had gone to the Netherlands for the weekend with their partners, driving a British-registered car. 

The IRA claimed it had mistaken them for off-duty British soldiers from a base in West Germany. 

Nick Spanos, 28, from Sydney was murdered by the IRA on May 27, 1990 in Netherlands.

Stephen Melrose, 24, from Brisbane was murdered by the IRA on May 27, 1990 in the Netherlands

Two Australian lawyers – Nick Spanos (left), 28 and Stephen Melrose (right), 24, were murdered by the IRA on May 27, 1990 in the Netherlands

Speaking on ABC radio at the time, then-prime minister Bob Hawke said the killings were ‘cowardly’.

‘I believe that all Australians will condemn … with me, in the strongest possible terms, the absolutely cowardly murders of these two young innocent Australians,’ he said. 

Mr Hawke then referred to comments made earlier on ABC by Seamus McGerrigan, the president of a group called the Connolly Society in Australia, an organisation that supported Irish republicanism.

‘The twisted logic used by an IRA supporter this morning that mistakes happen in war. Well that logic cuts no ice with me and my government or, I believe, with the Australian people,’ Mr Hawke said. 

While one man was found guilty of murdering the two Australians, that conviction was later overturned. 

Mr Flint said the deaths of the two innocent Australians was tragic.  

Ms McDonald, who is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) – Ireland’s top university – has been invited to address its alumni and IACC members in Sydney. 

She also has speaking engagements in Melbourne and at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (front left) is pictured beside party leader Gerry Adams (centre) and the party's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill (front right) at the funeral of IRA figure Bobby Storey in Belfast in June 2020

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (front left) is pictured beside party leader Gerry Adams (centre) and the party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (front right) at the funeral of IRA figure Bobby Storey in Belfast in June 2020

A spokesperson from the TCD Sydney Alumni Committee said ‘Mary Lou is attending our alumni dinner as a TCD graduate’. 

‘For all your other questions I’d advise you contact the Sinn Fein office directly,’ they said.

Daily Mail Australia contacted both Mary Lou McDonald and the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce seeking comment, but neither responded. 

Professor Ian McAllister, from the School of Politics at the Australian National University, said Sinn Fein had taken steps to modernise itself in recent years.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (pictured) is coming to Australia for a controversial speaking tour in July

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (pictured) is coming to Australia for a controversial speaking tour in July

‘I notice a generational change in Sinn Fein in that she’s the first leader that hasn’t had a paramilitary past, as I understand it,’ he said. 

‘I think that does make some bit of a difference.’

Gerry Adams, Ms McDonald’s predecessor as Sinn Fein leader, also visited Australia for speaking engagements, but was initially denied a visa in 1996.

On a previous speaking trip to Australia, Ms McDonald defended flying business class at a cost of €4,000 ($A6,115).

A similar flight now costs around $13,000 due to the cost of fuel and the scarcity of flights. It is not known if Ms McDonald is flying business class or who is paying for it.

The murder of two Australians by the IRA in the Netherlands 

Australian tourists Nick Spanos, 28, and Stephen Melrose, 24, were shot dead in Roermond, the Netherlands by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on May 27, 1990. 

Both men had been working in London as lawyers and had gone to the Netherlands for the weekend with their partners, travelling in a UK-registered car. 

Two gunmen, armed with an AK47 and a Ruger, ran across Roermond’s cobbled square firing. 

After killing Mr Melrose, one gunman walked to the car side door and shot Mr  Spanos. 

They escaped in a stolen Mazda, driven by a third IRA member. 

No one has been convicted of the murders of Mr Spanos and Mr Melrose. 

The IRA said it had mistaken them for off-duty British soldiers.

Then-prime minister Bob Hawke described the IRA’s statement of regret as ‘twisted, too late and meaningless’. 

Don Grimes, the then-Australian ambassador to the Netherlands said ‘the fact that it was a mistake and clearly innocent people were involved makes it worse. 

‘But, one can only feel disgust and contempt for people who do this sort of thing.’

Paul Hughes, Donna Maguire, Sean Hick and Gerard Harte were arrested in Belgium in June 1990 and later charged with the murders of Mr Spanos and Mr Melrose.

Harte was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. 

In 2010, then-Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness refused to meet members of Mr Melrose’s family in Ireland. 

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