Row in Sinn Féin as Snell, O’Neill and O’Brien asked to re­sign their seats

Bray People - - FRONT PAGE - By DEBORAH COLE­MAN

A BIT­TER row be­tween Sinn Féin in Co Wicklow has es­ca­lated with three mem­bers asked to re­sign their seats.

In a re­cent let­ter from party head­quar­ters, Cllr John Snell from Wicklow, Cllr Gerry O’Neill from Bless­ing­ton and Cllr Oliver O’Brien from Bray were asked to sur­ren­der their seats.

The party claims that they have been ‘work­ing out­side the party’s struc­ture for some time and have voted against the party on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.’

Ten­sions flared in re­cent months when the three coun­cil­lors ab­stained from vot­ing for new­comer Cllr Michael O’Con­nor for Wicklow County Coun­cil chair­per­son and for group leader Cllr Ni­cola Law­less as deputy chair­per­son.

The three mem­bers also took is­sue with the ap­point­ment of Cllr Law­less as group leader with­out con­sul­ta­tion with the five other Wicklow mem­bers.

They claim that there is too much in­flu­ence from out­side the elected mem­bers, and that in other cham­bers, coun­cil­lors have the more in­de­pen­dence.

It is un­der­stood that Cllrs Snell, O’Neill and O’Brien have un­til Fe­bru­ary 23 to lodge their ap­peal.

Cllr Snell said that he was ‘ look­ing for­ward to due process be­ing ad­hered to’.

He de­clined to com­ment on what steps he would take if per­ma­nently ex­pelled from the party, but said that he would have to ‘con­sider what is best for the elec­torate in Wicklow.’

He said that he re­mains loyal to Sinn Féin and is dedicated to the party’s poli­cies.

‘As coun­cil­lors, ev­ery­thing we do for the com­mu­nity is also for Sinn Féin. I have been a mem­ber for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time and I have worked hard for the party,’ he said.

Cllr O’Neill also con­firmed his in­ten­tion to ap­peal the de­ci­sion to ex­pel him and said that he ‘ has no in­ten­tion in the wide word’ of re­sign­ing his seat.

‘It took me a long time to get it. I have been a mem­ber of Sinn Féin since 1971 and I don’t want to leave. Some peo­ple have come up to me and said that they are hor­ri­fied by what has hap­pened. I’m no nod­ding dog for any­one,’ he said.

He also took is­sue with party claims that he and Cllrs Snell and O’Brien voted against the party on more than one oc­ca­sion.

‘I do not think this is fair to say. I would chal­lenge Sinn Féin to pro­duce ev­i­dence of that.’

Cllr O’Neill also said that the mem­bers were not happy with how Cllr Law­less was ‘in­di­rectly ap­pointed’ by TD John Brady.

While Deputy Brady re­fused to com­ment on the de­tails of the process ahead of the ap­peals, he said that the group leader in Wicklow has al­ways been ap­pointed by party lead­er­ship.

‘When I was elected onto Wicklow County Coun­cil, I was ap­pointed as group leader by the party and there has been no con­cern with that process,’ he said.

He said that ‘ex­haus­tive at­tempts’ have been made to deal with the cur­rent is­sue be­tween the three coun­cil­lors in ques­tion and the party.

‘Ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to due process. While I won’t get drawn into the spe­cific de­tails, ev­ery­one elected on a Sinn Féin man­date must ad­here to the party’s poli­cies, rules and guide­lines. Every po­lit­i­cal party has these and elected mem­bers must fol­low these,’ he said.

He re­fused to be drawn on sug­ges­tions that he ex­erts in­flu­ence over the Wicklow coun­cil­lors and said that this process is ‘com­pletely out of my hands’.

A state­ment from Sinn Féin said that it ex­pects coun­cil­lors elected on a Sinn Féin ticket to up­hold the party man­date.

‘On the rare oc­ca­sion where a coun­cil­lor leaves the party or has the whip re­moved from them, they are asked to give up their seat so that the party may co-opt a re­place­ment to ful­fil the man­date they have re­ceived.

‘In fact, all party can­di­dates go­ing for elec­tion sign a pledge to hand back the seat if they lose the party whip. Sinn Féin did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to re­solve these dif­fi­cul­ties, but un­for­tu­nately, they could not be re­solved. The coun­cil­lors are en­ti­tled to re­quest an ap­peal, so we will not be com­ment­ing fur­ther at this time.’

At­tempts to con­tact Cllr O’Brien were un­suc­cess­ful.

EV­ERY­THING WE DO FOR THE COM­MU­NITY IS ALSO FOR SINN FEIN

Cllr Gerry O’Neill.

Cllr John Snell.

Cllr Oliver O’Brien.

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