Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry McHugh has resigned from the party, blaming “undemocratic” practices.
Gerry McHugh, Assemby member for Fermanagh and south Tyrone and a member of Fermanagh District Council, became the latest high-profile member to quit the party on Friday.
A life-long republican, Mr McHugh said he intended to retain his assembly seat until the next election, when he will run as an independent.
He said the decision to quit had been difficult to make.
“I did not think I would find myself at this point,” he said.
In a parting shot, he accused the Sinn Féin leadership of becoming overly controlling of members.
“I have been increasingly disillusioned with the totally undemocratic nature of the party and the wholly top-down dictation within it,” Mr McHugh, said.
“I feels the direction Sinn Féin is taking is more about appeasement of the British government and administrating British rule in Ireland rather than working towards the end of British occupation.”
Mr McHugh said he would be canvassing grass roots republicans about the future direction for the movement.
“In the new year I will hold a series of public meetings to give people a chance to discuss the issues which are a priority for them and I will be inviting like-minded people to join me,” he said.
Sinn Féin Assembly Group Leader John O’Dowd said that he was disappointed by Mr McHugh’s move and claimed he failed to raise issues of concern within the party. He also claimed there was no genuine political motivation behind the resignation.
“Gerry has been a member of the party for a number of years and is well aware of our policies in relation to issues such as policing,” he said.
“Our Special Ard Fheis was held months before he allowed his name to go forward as a Sinn Féin candidate in the Assembly elections. It was on this basis that Gerry McHugh was elected.
“It is believed that many of the real reasons behind this decision relate to personal issues.”
* Sinn Féin has been unable to find candidates to fill positions on the District Policing Partnership in Strabane, County Tyrone.
It comes after weeks of debate within Strabane Sinn Féin over its decision to participate in the local DPP, which reflects the party’s new policy of supporting the PSNI police.
The party was given five posts on the board, but could only find three councillors willing to participate.
As a result the two spare posts were offered to the DUP.