Thursday 27 October 2016

McKay 'knows where bodies are buried' in coaching controversy

Suzanne Breen

Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30

Daithí McKay. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Daithí McKay. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Until now, it was widely believed Daithí McKay would be staying schtum. He had taken a bullet for Sinn Féin by shouldering the blame for the Jamie Bryson coaching controversy.

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Mr McKay was swiftly suspended from the party when the story broke. But the word on the political grapevine was that he would - after a decent interval - be reinstated and boxed off with another paid position.

Some suggested he may even end up back at Stormont as a special adviser. Now, it appears, Daithí McKay may not be prepared to go quietly after all.

It's inconceivable that the 18 Sinn Féin members resigned without talking to their former MLA, or that they would have taken such a dramatic stand had he opposed it. So it's likely that Mr McKay is far from happy at how he has been treated. The big question now is whether he will spill the beans.

McKay knows where the bodies are buried in the Nama coaching scandal. No-one with an iota of intelligence believes that his was a solo run.

Mr McKay knows who in the upper echelons of the party authorised his actions, and who was aware of them. He knows whom he spoke to - possibly colluded with - in advance of Jamie Bryson's Finance Committee appearance. He may even have the emails and texts.

The stakes are high and Mr McKay will have to decide if he wants to play his hand. He will have to weigh up what he has to gain and lose from doing so.

Sinn Féin doesn't make life easy for former party figures who cross it. Is McKay big and bold enough to choose that route?

The 18 people who resigned are obviously fiercely loyal to him. Some of them, to put it politely, aren't fans of newly appointed MLA Philip McGuigan.

Read more: Collateral damage in a far bigger political game

But this split is bigger than personal allegiances and local party divisions. There is a feeling that the Sinn Féin leadership is increasingly disconnected from its grassroots.

Just listen to the language former councillor Monica Digney used in a BBC interview when explaining her resignation.

"This is a party I loved with all my heart, gave 110pc to," she said. "I have been a lifelong republican. I will die a republican. I just don't have to die a Sinn Féin republican because I will not sell myself short, because I have what is commonly known as integrity."

The image of Sinn Féin as an establishment party has led to the rise in support of People Before Profit and, so long as the party continues in government with the DUP at Stormont, it is one that is very difficult to counter.

While Sinn Féin has experienced mass resignations in Cork - 70 members stood down last year in protest at the party's treatment of two local councillors - this is the first time it has happened in Northern Ireland where, traditionally, the leadership rules with an iron fist.

On top of the recent demand by Thomas McNulty, the chair of the party's Cavan cumann for Gerry Adams to step down, this represents a rare challenge to the Sinn Féin president's normally unquestioned leadership.

People generally leave in ones and twos through the back door. A group departure in a blaze of publicity is unheard of.

Irish Independent

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