Sinn Féin rocked by another bitter internal party row - leading TD censured and councillor suspended

By Daniel McConnell

Political Editor

Sinn Féin has been rocked by another bitter internal party row, which has seen a leading TD censured and a councillor suspended.

A long-standing dispute between Dublin North-West TD Dessie Ellis and Ballymun Councillor Noeleen Reilly has required an intervention from party bosses.

Ms Reilly claims she sought an intervention from incoming President Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams, suggesting that she was requested to “stay quiet to protect the party”.

She has been suspended, the party said, for a period of six months on foot of a complaint from another councillor.

Councillor Noeleen Reilly has been suspended.

Ms Reilly took to social media to vent her fury saying she repeatedly sought assistance from party bosses but it was not coming.

Mr Ellis has said he accepted a censure from his party over comments he made about Ms Reilly.

“I accept the decision of the Ard Chomhairle, and I apologise for the comments I made in the media about Councillor Reilly. I now want to move on to represent the people of Dublin North-West and to build the party locally,” he said.

When contacted by the Irish Examiner yesterday, he said he had no further comment.

In a statement, the party said: “There have been ongoing issues within the Dublin North West Constituency. These have been examined Sinn Féin, and the Ard Chomhairle have made a number of recommendations.”

“Following a complaint from a fellow councillor, Councillor Noeleen Reilly has been suspended from the party for 6 Months. With regard to complaints by Councillor Noeleen Reilly about comments in the media by Dessie Ellis, TD, he will be censured by the party.As per our party constitution, the people concerned can appeal these recommendations,” the party said.

Dessie Ellis accepted a censure from his party over comments he made about Ms Reilly.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, a party spokesman said any matters which cannot be dealt with under party procedures should be referred to Gardai and parties involved have been advised as such.

Sinn Féin has struggled to deal with a series of internal disputes around the country in recent months amid allegations of bullying within the party.

A series of resignations from its ranks of councillors as well as the loss of high profile Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh before Christmas have rocked the party.

Incoming leader Mary Lou McDonald has previously insisted such cases are "localised incidents" and the party has repeatedly denied there is a culture of bullying in the organisation.

Ms McDonald is set to replace Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin president at a special Ard Fheis next Saturday.

Mary Lou McDonald is set to replace Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin president at a special Ard Fheis next Saturday.

Asked about the matter on Sunday, party leader-elect Mary Lou McDonald said: “The issues are long in the making, unfortunately, and the party had made many attempts to intervene to try and sort things out.

“Unfortunately, that was not successful so a number of complaints have been made. Those have gone through our independent complaints procedures and the decisions arrived at and the sanctions entered into.

"And of course both people have a right to appeal, so I will be careful in what I say because I want to respect that right.”

Questioned on whether the party had “a problem with bullying”, Ms McDonald added: “No it’s not the first time that there have been difficulties and I don’t think we are remarkable as an organisation in that regard.

“It is certainly something that we need to attend to. We are a growing organisation and we have to at all times be very conscious of the atmosphere within the party. I’m very conscious of that as the leader-elect.”

Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin was a very large organisation, with 13,000 members.

“Yes, people have their ups and downs, people fall out with each other and we do our best to manage that.

"We are also a party that has rules and regulations and if things can’t be sorted out amicably, well then they go to our independent complaints procedure and that is how they are dealt with and that’s what has happened in this case.”

Ms McDonald said that procedure was run on the basis of natural justice and fairness and dealt with things “not in a sensationalist way, but in a factual way and in a fair way and every person thereafter has a right to appeal”.

“That’s where it stands now and I would ask people to respect that because the people concerned deserve that.”

On what sanctions Mr Ellis might face, Ms McDonald said that was a matter for the party and it would have to deliberate on that.

Meanwhile, Police have been notified of alleged criminal damage after Sinn Fein's policing spokesman was filmed apparently using bolt cutters to remove a clamp from his car.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly.

Gerry Kelly removed the device after finding his vehicle had been immobilised while he was at a gym in Belfast city centre on Friday morning, the party said.

The private parking firm that controls the area outside the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) near St Anne's Cathedral reported the matter to police.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statement said: "Police in north Belfast received a report of criminal damage in the Exchange Street area of Belfast at around 2.20pm, Friday 2 February.

"It is believed that damage was caused to the wheel-clamp of a car."

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