Irish Republican News · September 3, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Sinn Fein suffers damaging Antrim split


A Sinn Fein councillor and 17 party activists have quit the party in response to its treatment of Daithi McKay, a party Assembly member who was forced to resign his seat last month over his contacts with loyalist Jamie Bryson.

The members are all from the north and east Antrim areas. Sinn Fein said it was “disappointed” at the resignations.

Mr McKay resigned earlier this month over claims he had privately advised Bryson about how to give evidence to a Stormont inquiry. At the time, he said his actions were “inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong”.

Last week, the party announced it would fill Daithi McKay’s empty Stormont seat with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillor Philip McGuigan (pictured). He previously represented Sinn Fein at Stormont a decade ago.

News of the mass resignations came the same morning that Sinn Fein published a photo showing Mr McGuigan signing official papers to make him an Assembly member.

One of the 18 to resign, Monica Digney was the first Sinn Fein member to be elected to Ballymena Council. She said that it was “not a decision we took lightly”.

“I have been a republican all my life,” the former councillor said. “I will die a republican. But, I don’t have to be a Sinn Fein republican.

“Because, what has happened recently is there seems to be some people who get protected and other people are left hung out to dry and Daithi McKay, unfortunately, is one of those that was left hung out to dry.”

The letter accuses Sinn Fein of carrying out no consultation and “anointing” Mr McGuigan. Those who have resigned told a local newspaper it was “inconceivable” that they could remain in light of the way they believe Mr McKay was treated.

Paul Maguire, a Sinn Fein member of Mid and East Antrim council, said he now intends to sit as an independent. He warned others in the party were considering their positions and more resignations may follow.

Among the others who resigned are Michael Agnew, Chair of the Roger Casement Cumann; Marian Maguire, Chair of the Dan Duffin Cumann; and Cathal Newcombe, a former Moyle Councillor.

The split in the party in the area is the latest in a series to hit the organisation, which has suffered from its heavy-handed internal controls. Last year, 15 members of the Fermoy Cumann in County Cork resigned from Sinn Fein after a councillor was expelled from the party,

Former Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh Assembly member Davy Hyland, now an independent, urged the man at the centre of the dispute to speak out. He said that following such a strong show of local support for him, Mr McKay should “tell his side of the story”.

In a statement, Sinn Fein said it was “disappointed at the decision of the individuals” and insisted Philip McGuigan’s co-option at Stormont had followed consultations with party activists in the North Antrim area.

“Sinn Fein will continue to provide first-class representation for the people of North Antrim.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News