A Sinn Féin TD has dramatically quit the party as its organisational crisis once again erupted onto the front pages.
Violet-Anne Wynne, who represents Clare in the Dublin parliament, terminated her membership of Sinn Féin this week, alleging bullying and “psychological warfare” by party functionaries.
In a shocking statement, she said that she had been deliberately marginalised and that her recent pregnancy had been used “as a stick to beat her with”.
Ms Wynne, who was elected in February 2020, said she had been called an “effin eejit” after informing a prominent female party member of her recent pregnancy.
Despite being publicly congratulated on the birth of her baby girl by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, she felt snubbed after hearing nothing from her own party leader, Mary Lou McDonald. That was a final straw, she said.
“I was a proud Sinn Féin TD and took my membership with the party very seriously, I believed that they were the party for united Irelanders and were the future for this island. I now have experience that I can no longer ignore that states otherwise,” she said.
“I learned very fast that the party do not take kindly to autonomy and those who do not follow their plans.”
Her comments echo long-standing complaints about a controlling and dysfunctional approach by the party to its own membership. Evidence of adolescent behaviour by Sinn Féin management and a cynical and unlawful approach to its own activists has been damaging.
Cork East TD Sandra McLellan said she was constantly undermined by figures within the party before she was forced to quit the party in 2015. Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh blasted the party from the plinth of Leinster House for being “ruthless” and “unscrupulous” before he resigned as Senator in 2017. And a large number of Sinn Féin councillors, around 15, resigned ahead of a disastrous local election result for the party in 2019.
Leaving Sinn Féin is “not a decision that I have taken lightly”, Ms Wynne said this week. She said party “gatekeepers” had failed to ensure she received the constituency support she needed following her unexpected election in Clare two years ago.
Saying she intends continuing as an Independent TD in the constituency, said she had “navigated great difficulties” in her journey “from dole to Dáil” over the past two years and with “what many may call baggage”.
But she said she had been isolated by HQ, and steps had been taken to ensure that she would face even greater difficulties locally.
“I believe that the administrative side to the party and the organisers wanted me to stand down and have been actively seeking this through gaslighting measures and what can only be described as psychological warfare.
“I have tried to force the comradery and on many occasions, I informed them of the impact of their actions on my personal wellbeing and my work but it was to no avail.”
Ms Wynne adds she cannot fault the Sinn Féin TDs in Leinster House but that they “seem to be an entirely separate entity with no power to influence”.
“My unplanned pregnancy was also a further stick to beat me with and I am truly concerned for women who may want to come forward for Sinn Féin in the future, in Clare.”
Sinn Féin now faces a battle to regain its seat in a constituency where Wynne topped the poll in 2020. The party has previously shown itself capable of recovering from internal disputes by disbanding party structures and rebuilding them from scratch.
The timing of Wynne’s departure will also prove helpful, with a general election not due to be held for another three years.