Sinn Fein Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh has sensationally quit the party in the most serious fallout yet from an ongoing crisis within the organisation over internal management and controls.
The Galway Senator has become the most high-profile public representative to resign from Sinn Fein amid allegations of unacceptable behaviour and bullying.
In a surprise move Thursday evening, Trevor O Clochartaigh appeared on the steps of the Dublin parliament to announce he was leaving the party with immediate effect.
He cited inaction by the party to his complaints on disciplinary matters as well as “serious concerns over the future of the party”.
Shortly afterwards, Sinn Fein issued a statement claiming the resignation was motivated by his fears he would not win the party’s Galway West selection convention, which is being held on Sunday.
From Carna in Connemara, Mr O Clochartaigh (49) has been a Senator since 2011 and has stood twice for the party in general elections in Galway West.
Setting out his reasons on Thursday, Mr O Clochartaigh said that improper behaviour was the primary reason, and the forthcoming convention was peripheral.
“We have had serous breaches of the Sinn Fein code of conduct in Galway West going unpunished and unacceptable behaviour against me and a number of other members locally, from a small number of ruthless, unscrupulous and ambitious individuals going back a number of years now.”
He said he had taken the complaints to the highest level of the party, including Gerry Adams, but having exhausted the avenues, said he had no option but to leave.
Mr O Clochartaigh joins some 15 Sinn Fein councillors who have departed the party in recent years amid intimidation, bullying, whispering campaigns and over smear campaigns.
The party has no internal mechanism for tackling the problem, which has now been blamed for a decline in support for the party in the 26 Counties from over 20% to below 15%. Some members have begun to describe themselves as ‘Independent Sinn Fein’, and there have been discussions of the formation a new organisation.
The systems within Sinn Fein are not fit for purpose, said Mr O Clochartaigh. He strongly criticised the decision to “plough ahead” with an election convention with a pre-determined outcome.
“The behaviour that happens in Galway-West is totally unacceptable in any modern organisation,” he said. “The mechanisms within Sinn Fein to deal with these types of issues are not fit for purpose. I would hope that they address those because I’m been contacted by a lot of other people in the party who are saying we have similar issues in our own area, and we hope it will be addressed.”
In a brief statement, Sinn Fein made no reference Senator O Clochartaigh concerns but said his concerns were to his belief that “a democratic vote of party members in the constituency would not select him to contest the election”.
It added: “It is clear that Trevor was looking for a clear run at convention and the party wasn’t prepared to bypass our democratic structures to allow for that.”
McDONALD TO BE NAMED LEADER BY FEBRUARY
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it will name a new leader to replace Gerry Adams by the end of February. Dublin Central TD and party deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has emerged as the only candidate to replace him.
“The election of a new party president comes at a time of great challenges and opportunities for the Irish people as a new political landscape begins to unfold in front of us,” Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney said, adding that he believes there will be a 26 County general election next year.
Mr Adams, who announced his intention to step aside after more than 30 years leading Sinn Fein in his speech at the party’s ardfheis last month, told members now was the time for the next generation of leaders to come forward, and that required him to stand aside.
Speaking at a party meeting in Dublin today, Mr Adams made no reference to the upheaval within the organisation, but urged people to “do it together”.
“I firmly believe that one person can make a difference,” he said. “The first step in making a difference is believing that you can be that person...One woman, one man, doing their best. That’s what it takes. You don’t have to do as much as Martin McGuinness did, but we all have to do our best, and we have to do it together. That is the key to our successes so far.”