Sinn Fein's prized seat under threat in bitter row
Mass resignations as party rocked by claims of 'bullying and intimidation'
SINN Fein is to rebuild its Cork East party structures in a desperate bid to ensure a local rebellion does not cost the party one of its most prized Dail seats.
The party has been rocked by a bitter split which resulted in two councillors being disciplined, up to 70 members resigning and entire party cumanns in several towns being formally stood-down by SF HQ.
The astonishing row has also been marked by vicious personal accusations ranging from complaints of bullying and election campaign intimidation.
At least one SF member has now threatened legal action as part of the fall-out
Senior figures including Gerry Adams TD and Mary Lou McDonald TD are now to visit Cork East to support local leaders including Jonathan O'Brien TD and Councillor Chris O'Leary, the new Lord Mayor of Cork, in a bid to repair the damage.
SF officials have publicly challenged the scale of the reported membership resignations.
The party also insisted cumanns did not quit because they had already been stood-down as part of the review.
Senator David Cullinane warned that the party will "not be held to ransom by anyone."
But many fear the row is so bitter it could disastrously split the SF vote in the next general election and cost Sandra McLellan TD her Dail berth.
Cobh-based Councillor Kieran McCarthy, a member for 30 years, was formally expelled last Monday while Mallow-based Councillor Melissa Mullane was suspended for a year.
Both have been informed SF expects them to resign their Cork Co Council seats so the party can co-opt new members. They have 21 days to appeal.
SF's Ard Comhairle imposed the sanctions in line with recommendations from an internal party review conducted by Jonathan O'Brien, a TD in Cork North Central.
That was launched last January following complaints about the treatment of Sandra McLellan TD.
Cllr McCarthy, who is now considering contesting the next general election as an independent, claimed he had been "stabbed in the back" by a party he had supported all his life.
He also claimed the party had attempted to "blacken" his name and engaged in a series of actions worthy of "the Spanish Inquisition."
But Cllr McCarthy laughed off suggestions he would relinquish his Cork County Council seat. "They did (ask me to resign) - how ridiculous is it? It is totally ludicrous, undemocratic and adding insult to the injury already caused," he said.
Supporters have urged him to contest a Dail seat as an independent.
Sandra McLellan TD says she intends to defend her Dail seat.
"I will be contesting the upcoming convention," she said. In contrast, both Cllr McCarthy and Cllr Mullane are very high-profile and had been expected to run in the next election.