I was exposed to toxic atmosphere in Sinn Féin, says former councillor who joined FF
The first councillor to quit Sinn Féin over an alleged culture of misogyny has warned that further resignations are imminent unless party bosses intervene.
Omagh representative Sorcha McAnespy said she was exposed to a "toxic" atmosphere within Sinn Féin after she tried to strike alliances with unionists and other political opponents.
She claims that she was continuously undermined and sidelined by mostly male colleagues - forcing her to quit Sinn Féin just two years after she topped the poll for the party in the local elections.
Ms McAnespy (37), a qualified engineer and mother of three, has recently joined Fianna Fáil and is set to run for the party in the 2019 local elections.
She is expected to play a leading role in assisting Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in securing a political breakthrough for the party north of the Border.
Ms McAnespy took the decision to quit Sinn Féin in 2014 over what she described as a culture of misogyny and nepotism.
Many other politicians and members have taken the same move south of the Border - forcing Sinn Féin to deny that it has a bullying problem.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms McAnespy said she believes Sinn Féin is in denial and that other resignations will take place.
"It takes a lot of soul searching, especially when you are a young member of the party. You can think 'Maybe this is what it is supposed to be'," Ms McAnespy said.
"It takes you a long time for you to actually gather up the courage to actually speak out and go and ask for help.
"In every one of these cases I'm seeing, I'm thinking these people have seen if there's been some course of action they could have taken to make things better.
"They [Sinn Féin] really need to start taking these concerns seriously.
"Because they are going to lose more people."
For Ms McAnespy, it was her efforts to build bridges with unionists that resulted in her being isolated within Sinn Féin.
She cites one community event whereby she was personally commended by two high-profile senior loyalists for her efforts in bringing people together.
This sort of approach, she says, was encouraged by the late Martin McGuinness. But others in the party disagreed.
"For me that was making progress. I thought that was good. But it wasn't appreciated," she said.
Ms McAnespy says she is now focused on her work as a councillor and a member of Fianna Fáil.
She is a candidate for the upcoming election for the party's national executive.
She says that she shares the party's vision for the Irish language and the prospect of a United Ireland.
"They are the republican party.
"They are the party that wants to have a United Ireland as well," she said of Fianna Fáil.