SF bullying claims lead to party calls for 'urgent review'
Sinn Féin will this week debate a motion calling for an "urgent review" of its membership policies as party bosses continue to grapple with allegations of a bullying culture.
The clár for the Ard Fheis contains just a single motion that points to some of the difficulties that the party has endured in relation to losing members over alleged bullying and harassment.
"This Ard Fheis calls for the Ard Chomhairle to initiate an urgent review [into] the current membership policies including recruitment, education and retention of new members, with a view to protecting the integrity of the party and the commitment of its members," the motion from the Cork City cumann states.
"That this review should consider staged membership or associate membership, probationary periods, rights and responsibilities and allow for participation from cumainn and the wider membership.
"The objectives of this review would be to create a more robust party, inclusive of all, where membership rights and responsibilities are clearly defined, making the party fit for purpose in our new and dynamic, ever-changing Irish society," the motion states.
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Sinn Féin sources said the party hierarchy was keen to avoid any focus being placed on the issue of bullying at the Ard Fheis, which kicks off in the RDS, Dublin, on Friday.
Party president Gerry Adams is expected to outline a timeline for his retirement - which will effectively kick off the competition to succeed him.
TDs Pearse Doherty, Eoin Ó Broin and Mary Lou McDonald in particular are the favourites to become the next Sinn Féin leader.
As revealed by the Irish Independent on Saturday, Ms McDonald's former driver has become embroiled in a fresh bullying row.
The woman, who is highly respected within Sinn Féin, claims she was branded a "c***" during a row over printing.
She has also enlisted a legal team amid claims that she was accused of compiling a "file" on Ms McDonald. The Dublin Central TD says she does not believe the claim.
Separately, the issue of abortion is likely to prove divisive at the Ard Fheis.
A raft of Sinn Féin cumanns in the homebase of Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín have signed a motion calling for members to be given a free vote on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.
Some 19 separate cumanns, the majority in Meath, have put their names to two motions calling for a free vote on the issue, which will be the subject of a referendum in May or June.
Mr Tóibín was the only TD stripped of the Sinn Féin whip in 2013 for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. He was readmitted to the party within months, despite speculation he could join Fianna Fáil.
Mr Adams has ruled out allowing a free vote on the issue, although this could change depending on the outcome of the Ard Fheis.
Two motions will make the proposal for a free vote.
"This Ard Fheis agrees that all Sinn Féin members be allowed to articulate and vote on the issue of abortion according to their conscience," states one of the motions.
"This Ard Fheis believes that all Sinn Féin elected representatives should be allowed to vote on the issue of abortion according to their conscience or personal opinion and should not be bound by party policy," states the other.
There are several other motions calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality, rape and when a woman's health is at risk.