Saturday 21 April 2018

Mary Lou McDonald gets dragged into Sinn Fein bullying row

Former driver makes allegations against the party which have led to internal probe

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tony Gavin
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

SINN FEIN deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has been dragged into an extraordinary bullying row involving her former driver.

The party has been rocked by "smear" allegations made by one of its longest serving members, who has worked for Sinn Fein in various senior positions over the past 30 years.

The Irish Independent today details how the woman at the centre of the case has enlisted a legal team to handle a complaint of bullying against the party.

She claims she was labelled a "c***" by a former Sinn Fein colleague in a row over printing during the 2014 by-election in Dublin South West, which was won by Solidarity TD Paul Murphy. The woman reported the issue to party bosses and made other claims that have fed into an internal bullying probe.

It's understood the individual who allegedly called her a c*** has since left the party.

However, before his departure, he claimed the woman openly spoke about having prepared a "file" on Ms McDonald, a TD for Dublin Central.

Mairia Cahill. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Mairia Cahill. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Well-placed sources say the woman is deeply upset by the claims, which she rejects outright. The woman later made a formal complaint to the party, which is the subject of a long-running internal inquiry.

It's understood that during the inquiry into alleged bullying, the woman was asked about the claims she prepared a file on Ms McDonald. She has said she is particularly upset at the claims, given she worked for Ms McDonald for several years in a voluntary capacity as the TD's driver.

The pair have been described within the party as "Thelma and Louise" as they were seen as very close. Ms McDonald confirmed to the Irish Independent that the woman was her driver in a voluntary capacity. She said she does not believe she compiled a file on her.

A party spokesperson said there was nothing further to add, as it is an internal party matter.

The woman at the centre of the case was not reachable for comment. However, it has been confirmed that she has been in the party for years and handed out leaflets for Bobby Sands.

Her legal team has asked the party to explain who is behind the alleged smear. She has also met the Sinn Fein team investigating the allegations of bullying, according to well-placed sources.

The case has been brought to the attention of party president Gerry Adams and is one of several being dealt with internally by senior Sinn Fein officials.

The party has repeatedly denied that it has a culture of bullying, despite several members resigning in recent weeks. One of Sinn Fein's most high-profile councillors quit this week amid claims he and his family were subjected to "unfounded and untruthful allegations". Tipperary representative Seamus 'Seamie' Morris will now serve as an independent councillor.

The mother of Irish Hollywood actor Jack Reynor was thrown out over an internal feud.

Tara Reynor-O'Grady, a respected human rights activist, got a letter last week with a €5 note attached, detailing how her membership had been rescinded.

The letter was sent just days after Ms Reynor-O'Grady represented three local councillors in a dispute with party bosses.

On September 19, Sinn Fein expelled the three - Gerry O'Neill, John Snell, and Oliver O'Brien - following an unresolved row at Wicklow County Council.

On September 5, the party's youngest councillor Lisa Marie Sheehy resigned alleging there was a "hostile and toxic" environment in Sinn Fein.

In July, Paul Hogan, a Sinn Fein councillor in Westmeath, claimed he was bullied by party members after the break-up of a relationship.

Former TD Sandra McLellan effectively quit politics as a result of her allged mistreatmetn. She served as Cork East TD but decided not to run in the last election amid allegations of a "vicious" campaign against her.

Online Editors

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