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