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Thursday 19 July 2018

Councillor at centre of latest Sinn Féin bullying row resigns

Councillor Noeleen Reilly Picture: Arthur Carron
Councillor Noeleen Reilly Picture: Arthur Carron

Laura Larkin and Kevin Doyle

A councillor who has alleged that Sinn Féin ignored a string of bullying complaints and turned a blind eye to an assault has resigned from the party.

Dublin city councillor Noeleen Reilly has resigned from the party with immediate effect, alleging she was the victim of "an orchestrated bullying campaign".

Ms Reilly alleges she was assaulted by a person close to Dublin Northwest TD Dessie Ellis and this weekend released a series of images showing injuries she claims were sustained during the assault.

It is understood the alleged incident involving another woman took place at a GAA venue in Cabra in March 2016.

The Irish Independent previously revealed details of an extraordinary row between the pair’s rival camps in the Dublin North West constituency.

A dossier compiled for the party told how some members had taken legal advice after being subjected to personal allegations that they said were defamatory and untrue.

A photo of the injuries Noeleen Reilly claimed were inflicted on her by a person close to Dessie Ellis
A photo of the injuries Noeleen Reilly claimed were inflicted on her by a person close to Dessie Ellis

It is further claimed that supporters, canvassers and some candidates were threatened and subjected to anonymous abuse on social media.

On foot of complaints about Ms Reilly’s behaviour, the party’s ard comhairle decided on Saturday to suspend her for six months.

This decision, Ms Reilly said, left her with "little choice" but to leave the party after 17 years of membership.

"I will be remaining as a councillor and will continue to work hard for the people of Dublin Northwest," she said in a statement.

"I want to wish all the good people in Sinn Féin the best in the future and thank you for your support over the years."

Ms Reilly said she first raised the issue of bullying in the party in February 2014 and has done on a consistent basis since then.

Following her suspension at the weekend, she wrote a publicly visible online message to Ms McDonald and outgoing leader Gerry Adams, stating: “Assuming it’s OK now to defend myself considering I was told to stay quiet to protect party.” She also attached a series of images showing severe bruises to her legs.

Sources say Ms Reilly had “informal contact” with gardaí, but chose not to make an official complaint to protect the party.

In an email sent to a Sinn Féin official days after the incident, Ms Reilly sought a meeting with Mr Adams. She said the person who assaulted her was not a Sinn Féin member, but did attend party events. “How can I feel safe going to anything again?” she asked.

Last November Ms Reilly sent another email to party headquarters complaining that she felt compelled to leave the party’s ard fheis after realising the alleged assailant was present.

“I feel my personal safety is now at risk,” she wrote. “Given that I was told nothing could be done within the party about my assault as she is not a member, I find it hypocritical that she is now invited to our ard fheis.

“It sets a very bad image for victims of violent assaults. I left last night for my own safety and to avoid any possible embarrassment,” she wrote on November 18.

Mr Ellis is also to be “censured” for media comments he made suggesting the councillor was not fit to serve in Sinn Féin.

Asked about the controversy yesterday, Ms McDonald said the issues in Dublin North West “are long in the making, unfortunately”.

“The party had made many attempts to intervene to try to sort things out. Unfortunately that was not successful.”

Ms McDonald refused to specify what “censure” would be handed down to Mr Ellis – but it is understood he is likely to get a written reprimand. “That’s a matter for the party, so the party will have to deliberate on that.”

In a statement, Mr Ellis said he accepted the decision of the ard comhairle and apologised for “the comments I made in the media about Councillor Reilly”.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said on Sunday: “Cllr Reilly was advised at all times over the last two years that any alleged assault should be reported to gardaí as it is a matter for them to investigate such matters.”

Independent.ie has contacted the party for comment on Ms Reilly's resignation.

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