Councillors quit Sinn Fein
Councillors quit Sinn Fein

A former member of Sinn Fein’s ard chomhairle [high council] has become the third councillor to quit the party in the 26 Counties in recent weeks.

Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan, a former director of elections for Dublin South-Central TD Aengus O Snodaigh, said she felt the party had “moved steadily away from the core values of Irish socialist republicanism”.

Her decision to resign follows two other high-profile defections since the local government and European elections.

Wexford councillor John Dwyer quit last month, two weeks after a similar move by the party’s longest-serving councillor in the state, Dubliner Christy Burke.

The party’s concerted attempts to reshape its policies and image for a move into the political ‘mainsteam’ have come at the worst possible time, particularly in Dublin.

As voters sought radical alternatives to the deeply unpopular Fianna Fail government, they largely bypassed Sinn Fein and voted for hard-left organisations or the more established opposition parties.

Prominent Kerry councillor Toireasa Ferris wrote earlier this month that Sinn Fein was suffering an “identity crisis” and was out of touch with its base.

Disenchanted Sinn Fein activists have also complained in recent years that valuable funds and resources have been deliberately frittered away by office administrators and withheld from the party’s more radical grassroots. There have been related rumblings that the party’s officer board [leadership], responsible for the day-to-day running of the party, has remained largely unchanged for almost two decades.

Ms Minihan’s statement was one of the more outspoken of the recent defections. She said Sinn Fein was not the party she had joined Sinn Fein in 1998, at the age of 16.

“Sinn Fein has, over the course of the last 12 years, moved steadily away from the core values of Irish socialist republicanism and is no longer willing or able to challenge the British occupation of the six counties or the rotten capitalist system which is causing so much hardship to working families across Ireland today,” she said.

“For years I voiced my disquiet within Sinn Fein about the direction that party was headed, in the vain hope that radical politics might triumph over reformism.

“Like thousands of other republicans before me, I have come to the conclusion that the battle for the heart of Sinn Fein is lost.

“While wishing those many genuine activists who remain within Sinn Fein well in the future, I believe that many of them will sooner or later come to the same conclusion that I now have.”

Ms Minihan said she would continue to sit on the council. However, former colleague Aengus O Snodaigh TD called for the seat to be returned to the party.

“There is deep disappointment among all those who worked closely with Louise, since she was co-opted to the council two years ago, that she chose to wait until after she was elected as a Sinn Fein councillor to take this course of action,” he said.

“It was only a matter of months ago that she sought and received the Sinn Fein nomination and was then elected as a Sinn Fein councillor.

“Sinn Fein has deep roots in this community and has worked tirelessly with local people in the fight against drugs and antisocial behaviour, in campaigning for decent local services and housing and for jobs for the people who live here.

“We will continue to put the needs of the people first.”

Meanwhile, Gerard Foley, who has served as a councillor on Strabane District Council since 2005, announced last week that he was leaving the party. He will remain an independent member on Strabane District Council.

Mr Foley said he had no ulterior motive for leaving the party and dismissed suggestions that he was pushed out.

“People say there must be something in the background but there isn’t,” he said.

“I just made a decision and spoke to my family and the community and they supported me.

“I want to work more with the community but I was going to too many party meetings. I felt I was bypassing the people and my daughter was growing up past me.”

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