Sinn Féin political adviser Breandan Mac Cionnaith has resigned from the party without commenting on the reasons for his departure.
Mr Mac Cionnaith is well known for his role as spokesman for the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition in Portadown and it is understood he will continue in this position.
Mr Mac Cionnaith had been political adviser to Mr O’Dowd, who is Sinn Féin’s health spokesman and is to chair the Public Accounts Committee when power-sharing is restored in Belfast.
His decision to resign not only as an adviser but also as a member of Sinn Féin has come as something of a political shock.
Yesterday Sinn Féin Upper Bann assembly member John O’Dowd confirmed the news of the resignation.
“It is up to Breandan to give his reasons.
“But as far as I am concerned Breandan Mac Cionnaith remains a friend of mine, he remains a comrade of mine, and remains a republican.
“If Breandan wants to give any more details ... that is a matter for him,” Mr O’Dowd said.
Mr Mac Cionnaith had been political adviser to Mr O’Dowd, who is Sinn Féin’s health spokesman and is to chair the Public Accounts Committee when devolution is restored.
In the 1990s Mr Mac Cionnaith came to prominence in the sometimes violent Drumcree dispute between the Protestant Orange Order and residents of the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.
There is speculation that Mr Mac Cionnaith may have left Sinn Féin over the party’s more flexible attitude towards Orange marches, including the Drumcree dispute. This summer’s marching season will represent the first major test of the new Paisley-McGuinness administration in Belfast.MARCHING BEGINS
Meanwhile, a parade in north Belfast by the Protestant Apprentice Boys’ organisation passed-off without incident yesterday morning.
There was a low-key PSNI presence as the march paraded past the flashpoint Ardoyne interface shortly before nine o’clock yesterday morning.
Nationalist residents’ representatives had earlier signalled that they would not protest against the parade as a good will gesture.
In south Belfast, Apprentice Boys boarded buses at Ormeau Bridge after being rerouted away from the lower Ormeau Road. In Castlederg in County Tyrone an Apprentice Boys parade was kept away from a nationalist section of the town.