Star Jack's mum takes lead role in SF bullying fight
Disaffected Sinn Fein supporters helped by the mother of a Hollywood actor plan to organise forums across Ireland to highlight allegations of mistreatment and bullying within the party ahead of the Ard Fheis in November.
Tara O'Grady, a human rights campaigner whose son Jack Reynor starred in Transformers, confirmed that she would be involved in organising the meetings, after a wave of resignations and expulsions in Sinn Fein.
"There will be meetings. There will be many of them and I will be involved. It will be to help them to build their networks, to build their capacity and to move forward as a community. They need to do it," she said.
"Sinn Fein is going to do everything it can to stifle this outcry. There will definitely be meetings and forums between now and the time of the Ard Fheis, and we also have a general election coming up."
Sinn Fein has been plagued by claims of unfair treatment from members and former members, most recently a 23-year-old councillor in Limerick who last week announced that she was quitting the party because of alleged bullying and intimidation.
Lisa Marie Sheehy, who now intends to serve as an independent, accused members of plotting against her and pushing her out of the party.
Ms O'Grady said she had been contacted by concerned Sinn Fein members from across the country "They are really in their hundreds. There are whole communities of people who are feeling disenfranchised by the party," she said.
She said they needed to "air their concerns" and to "do it collectively", adding: "A lot of Sinn Fein members who were brought into the party in recent years have been left exposed and isolated, and were not given the fundamental support needed to enhance their political skills and thrive in their own communities.
"Now many people are feeling very distressed and definitely bullied."
Ms O'Grady, whose human rights work is mostly in the Middle East, was herself thrown out of Sinn Fein earlier this year, after she acted as a witness for three councillors in Wicklow in an internal party inquiry.
Other disaffected Sinn Fein councillors include Seamus Morris, in Tipperary, who last week alleged that he was the victim of a campaign of harassment and slander after the party sought to remove him.
In July, Paul Hogan, a Sinn Fein councillor in Westmeath, claimed he was bullied by party members after the break-up of a relationship.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has denied there is a culture of bullying in the party.
In a statement, Sinn Fein said yesterday that it was unaware of the planned forums. It said there was no place for bullying the party and that it was not always possible to resolve "local disputes".