Sinn Féin leaders attempt to defuse bitter party row
Sinn Féin is organising a series of emergency briefings of Cork East members in a bid to halt the alarming haemorrhage of party officials.
Party leader Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald have taken a direct role in trying to control the fallout from the controversy.
The news comes as the TD at the centre of the affair, Sandra McLellan, finally broke her silence.
Ms McLellan said she regrets the loss of members but vowed to contest the upcoming selection convention in Cork East.
"I will be contesting the upcoming convention and hope to win the support of the party members in Cork East to stand once again for Sinn Féin and to retain this seat for the party," Ms McLellan said.
Meanwhile, the party is bracing itself for another raft of resignations in Mallow after a reported 70 members quit in Fermoy and Cobh in protest at the disciplinary treatment handed out to two high-profile local councillors.
Sinn Féin now fears a major split in the local party before the general election, with speculation mounting that Ms McLellan could be challenged for a place on the ticket.
Councillor Kieran McCarthy of Cobh was expelled and councillor Melissa Mullane was suspended for 12 months last Monday following an internal party review.
Both have now been asked to resign their Cork County Council seats so Sinn Féin can co-opt new members.
Sinn Féin declined to comment on the specifics of the internal review until a 21-day appeal period is over.
Both councillors have received staunch support from party members in Fermoy and Cobh.
Fifteen members resigned in Fermoy on Tuesday night, while 54 quit in Cobh on Wednesday night.
Sinn Féin has challenged those figures, arguing that it stood down its local structure in light of the review.
But further resignations were expected last night in Mallow, which is Ms Mullane's power base.
Senior party officials, including Ms McDonald and Mr Adams, are expected to visit Cork East in a bid to ease tensions.
The revelation came as it emerged one of the submissions to the Sinn Féin internal review in relation to Mr McCarthy came from a Cobh-based mother who was fundraising for her sick child.
The submission was made via Ms McDonald.
Antoinette McLoughlin-Byrne founded the 'Katie's Dream To Walk' appeal with her husband Robert to raise funds to allow their daughter, Katie, receive pioneering treatment at a US hospital.
Katie was born with cerebral palsy and, after undergoing treatment at a Missouri hospital, is now able to walk.
Speaking on Cork's 96FM, Antoinette said Mr McCarthy was initially very supportive of their appeal via the group Spirit of Cobh.
However, she said he ceased his involvement when a local businessman became involved and that he caused a delay of seven months in the release of the balance of fundraising monies (€2,300) from the Spirit of Cobh committee.
However, in response, Mr McCarthy said the delay in releasing the money raised for Katie was nothing at all to do with him.