Saturday 16 December 2017

McDonald denies SF row in her back yard

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has rejected claims that former Dublin City Councillor Jonathan Dowdall was bullied by party members. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has rejected claims that former Dublin City Councillor Jonathan Dowdall was bullied by party members. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

On the evening of May 24 last year, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was in celebration mode.

She was, without doubt, quite entitled to feel proud of herself and her party.

Sinn Féin had not only elected three MEPs but also secured an impressive vote in council wards across the capital.

This level of success was most evident in Ms McDonald's own back yard.

Three of Ms McDonald's protégés ran under the Sinn Féin banner in Dublin's north inner city. One of these young guns, Janice Boylan, topped the poll. Another, Gaye Fagan, lost out by just a handful of transfers.

The third was a father-of-four named Jonathan Dowdall.

Mr Dowdall was comfortably elected on his first outing to a place on Dublin City Council.

Just months later, Mr Dowdall complained to supporters that he was told not to visit parts of his own ward.

Later, word spread that Mr Dowdall was considering tendering his resignation. He finally quit in February, citing ill health at the time.

Mr Dowdall now claims he was bullied by unnamed party members.

As she admitted openly yesterday, Ms McDonald was well aware of Mr Dowdall's level of dissatisfaction as a Sinn Féin councillor.

She said she knows the scenario at play in "minute" detail - as you would expect from the sitting Sinn Féin TD.

But on two occasions, Ms McDonald flatly denied that any bullying took place. She also said no complaint was received from Mr Dowdall - in contrast to his remarks earlier this week.

The fact that allegations of bullying have surfaced are without doubt damaging to Sinn Féin's image.

The party has for months been riding the crest of a political wave despite the controversies surrounding IRA sex abuse.

But what the Jonathan Dowdall controversy proves is that occasions do arise where Sinn Féin members speak out, despite the 'cult-like' status opponents say typifies the party.

The controversy surrounding the sanctions handed down to two councillors in Cork East have, of course, given a rare insight into the inner workings of the Sinn Féin operation.

The saga has shown that the party is not quite as expert at ensuring discipline within the ranks as perhaps it would like to be.

Talk of mass resignations, which has been seriously played down by senior Sinn Féin strategists, paints the picture of a constituency branch in absolute chaos.

Sinn Féin could probably put the issue to bed if it published the review that guided the decision by the Árd Chomhairle to expel councillor Kieran McCarthy and suspend his colleague Melissa Mullane.

By doing so, even in redacted form, the party would show a level of transparency that has been rarely seen in the past.

It would show that Sinn Féin is serious about doing politics in a different way.

But, such a move was all but ruled out by Ms McDonald during an interview with the media outside Leinster House yesterday.

"It's not the practice to make documents like that public, so I don't believe it would be," she said.

Cue once again the claims that Sinn Féin operates in a cult-like fashion.

Irish Independent

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