SF and former councillor in slanging match
SF and former councillor in slanging match

A major row has erupted between Sinn Fein and former party councillor Dessie Ward following his resignation from the party.

He resigned in March saying he had not received enough support from Sinn Fein in his Upper Bann constituency.

Mr Ward became the party’s first representative on the unionist-dominated Banbridge District Council. He was local Asembly member John O’Dowd’s running mate in the 2007 assembly elections when he narrowly missed out on a seat.

Sinn Fein is renowned for the intensely bitter public spats which erupt when an elected member of the party decides to resign.

“There were various reasons why I left the party,” he said.

“But I tried not to go into too much detail at the time because I wanted to leave on a positive note.

“But from the day and hour I left the party there have been constant attacks on my character and ability.

“There appears to be an attitude that if you aren’t in the party, you’ve had it.

“It’s not like any other political party. Leaving Sinn Fein is like leaving the Mafia.”

He said the main reasons for his leaving Sinn Fein included the party’s response to child abuse allegations and clashes with party colleague John O’Dowd.

Mr Ward said he felt unable to work with Mr O’Dowd, a senior figure who leads the Sinn Fein assembly team.

“I remember during the assembly elections when I came close to winning a seat, wondering just how I was going to be able to work with him,” Mr Ward said,

“I’d say around 30 percent of the reason I left was because of John O’Dowd.

“Then some of the things that came out about Sinn Fein I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

“The issue of child abuse and how that was dealt with - I thought they should have said that things happened during the conflict that should not have but instead they tried to spin their way out of it.

“Gerry Adams not admitting that he was even a member of the IRA, I couldn’t understand,” he added.

He claimed he had received harassing messages since leaving the party, and had felt particularly threatened by a comment he said was directed at him by a Sinn Fein member in Lurgan.

Mr O’Dowd dismissed Mr Ward’s claims.

“Since Dessie Ward resigned from Sinn Fein several months ago he has launched a number of unfounded media attacks on me and the party,”he said.

“Some of his comments regarding me are currently with my legal team and I await their advice.”

Craigavon Sinn Fein councillor Johnny McGibbon also hit back at his former colleague saying that the allegations were “totally without foundation”.

“Mr Ward claims he received no support from Upper Bann Sinn Fein during his membership, this in itself is not the most offensive or serious of the allegations printed but it is untrue,” Mr McGibbon said.

“Mr Ward was in fact lifted and laid by his party comrades and regularly joked that at least one party member was his personal driver.

“He had the full resources of not one but two constituency offices --- one in Upper Bann and when he moved to South Down several years ago he used the resources of that office to the maximum for his own self-promotion.”

Mr McGibbon strenuously rejected the “most serious allegation” made by Mr Ward that he was threatened on the street in Lurgan by a Sinn Fein member.

“There is no independent verification of this very serious claim. Mr Ward continues to outline new reasons almost weekly as to why he left Sinn Fein including attacking the character of John O’Dowd MLA and Gerry Adams MP. Unfortunately for him the recent elections show the electorate do not agree with him,” Mr McGibbon said.

Last night Mr Ward said he “simply wants to move on with my life and with the business of representing the people of Banbridge and district” adding he had every confidence that he would “comfortably” see off any electoral challenge in next year’s local government elections.

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