DOZENS of members of the Labour Party have resigned from its Sligo-Leitrim branch in a bitter split over the choice of candidate for today's election.
The dispute centres around Labour's perceived snubbing of long-serving councillor Veronica Cawley in favour of journalist Susan O'Keefe as its sole candidate in the constituency.
Labour insists that Ms O'Keefe's selection was above board. Both women were interviewed following the selection convention in June, at which they were deadlocked on votes.
But the affair has left a festering wound, which reopened when Ms Cawley decided to run as an independent candidate two weeks ago and was expelled from the party.
Yesterday, a Cawley supporter, Olivia Gilroy, revealed she had resigned from the party two weeks ago and that others had since followed.
"Over the past two weeks," she said, "there has been a mass resignation. As many as 50 have resigned and 30 more members have indicated that they won't be renewing their memberships," she told Ocean FM.
Ms Gilroy claimed that 28 new members had been allowed vote on the night, which was a breach of rules because they had not been members for the required six months.
"There is a major fracture in the party now and it has been caused by Dublin," she said.
But Mark Timoney, PRO of Labour's Sligo-north Leitrim branch, questioned the numbers and described the timing of the resignations as "cynical".
"I have heard 20 bandied about. But for this to happen two days before an election smells of rotten eggs," he said.
He also questioned who the people were who had resigned.
"Are they genuine members or family members?" he asked, adding: "After 20 years in politics, Cllr Cawley couldn't get enough people to support her to get the nomination."