Three ex-SF councillors to target seat of local party TD
Three former Sinn Féin councillors who were expelled from the party after a bitter constituency row have formed a new alliance in a bid to unseat the local Sinn Féin TD.
Wicklow councillors John Snell, Oliver O'Brien and Gerry O'Neill are also set to recruit three other local activists, one of whom is a former Sinn Féin councillor.
The three politicians lost the party whip in September after attempts by party bosses to bring an end to the hostilities proved unsuccessful.
The decision to expel the trio means Sinn Féin has now lost half of its representation on Wicklow County Council.
After his expulsion, Mr O'Neill said his former party "does not resemble republicanism."
In a blow to sitting Sinn Féin TD John Brady, the group have recruited former Sinn Féin councillor Rossa Murray. Mr Murray fell out with Sinn Féin after he was overlooked for co-option to the council seat that became vacant after Mr Brady was elected to the Dáil.
It is understood the new alliance may be called 'Independent Sinn Féin' - similar to the approach taken by Tipperary councillor Seamus Morris who quit the party last week after making bullying allegations.
The group in Wicklow is likely to challenge for a Dáil seat. Rathnew councillor Mr Snell is the most likely member of the group to be put forward in an attempt to unseat Mr Brady.
Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin leadership is expected to hold talks with maverick TD Peadar Tóibín this week as speculation grows that he may quit the party over the issue of abortion.
Two separate Sinn Féin sources told this newspaper this week that Mr Tóibín's future within the party was in serious doubt.
The Meath West deputy infuriated party colleagues following his attack on the Oireachtas committee on abortion, on which three members of Sinn Féin sit.
Mr Tóibín was publicly rebuked by his parliamentary colleagues Eoin Ó Broin and Jonathan O'Brien after he claimed the committee was suffering from a lack of balance.
And the isolated TD appeared to contradict his own party's stance on the issue of corporation tax during an appearance on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.
He told the programme that: "Unfortunately, this country has looked at bargain basement corporation tax for its competitive advantage."
However, Sinn Féin's clear position on corporation tax is that it should be retained at the 12.5pc rate.
Mr Tóibín could not be reached for comment yesterday.
As revealed by the Irish Independent, a raft of cumainn in Co Meath have called for a conscience vote for Oireachtas members on abortion in a clearly orchestrated move aimed at preventing Mr Tóibin from losing the party whip.
Mr Tóibín previously lost the whip for voting against the party's abortion stance.
Sinn Féin sources say they do not expect the motions to be successful, meaning Mr Tóibín will have to decide whether to quit the party.
He has previously been linked to a move to Fianna Fail, which he has dismissed.