Mary leaves Sinn Féin over 'ongoing interference'
Councillor Mary McDonald has announced that she has left the Sinn Féin party amid what she says is 'ongoing interference' in local politics from senior party members.
The Arklow-based councillor, who was first elected to Wicklow County Council in 2014, said that she took the decision following issues which have been ongoing for 'a number of years'.
It is understood that up to 10 members of the party in South Wicklow have also left Sinn Féin in recent months and, according to Cllr McDonald, feel their concerns were not listened to by senior party officials.
'There have been numerous meetings in recent years and mediation without success. This has been a long time coming and I felt that nothing was changing,' Cllr McDonald said.
'I was being restricted in what I could do or say at council level because of the agendas and self serving interests of others. This decision is not based on any factor relating to Sinn Féin's national policies, but rather local administration indifference, which I feel is driving the parties experienced and talented members away,' she added.
Cllr McDonald said that while she still believes in Sinn Féin's core policies and that the party has many talented and capable members, she would be in a position to better serve the people of south Wicklow as an Independent member.
'I had no problem whatsoever adhering to party policy, as that was what I signed up for, but I did have an issue with being told to "make politics" out of certain issues. I felt restricted in my work as a councillor,' she said.
She said that she believes 'good ideas should take precedence over any political ideology'.
'As a political activist I need to maintain my ability to agree, criticise or oppose, if I am to advocate effectively for the people of south Wicklow. I want to continue to work with those in all political parties and none to find common ground, to put partisanship aside and to achieve real solutions to the challenges ahead. I want to amplify the people of south Wicklow's voices and not be gagged by political middlemen,' she said.
Cllr McDonald's departure follow those of Cllr Gerry O'Neill, Cllr John Snell and Cllr Oliver O'Brien who were expelled by the party for voting against the party in a Wicklow County Council meeting.
Of the six Sinn Féin members elected in 2014 to Wicklow County Council, the only remaining member is Cllr Nicola Lawless. Former Councillor Michael O'Connor was co-opted onto the council after the election of John Brady TD to Dáil Éireann but resigned his seat last September which was taken over by Dermot 'Daisy' O'Brien.
Cllr McDonald said that she hoped her decision to leave would signal to Sinn Féin that there is a 'deeper issue' within the party which needs to be addressed.
In a statement, Wicklow Sinn Féin claimed to be 'shocked and confused' at Cllr McDonald's decision to leave the party and said that aside from the 'normal tensions and challenges that come with election campaigns' there was no indication that she wanted to leave.
They claim that 'party structures' were not used to resolve the issues raised by Cllr McDonald.
'It is understood that a number of issues were presented to the party hierarchy within a resignation letter in the last couple of weeks. Although the letter did not seek resolution or propose solutions, an external member of Sinn Féin was appointed by national structures in good faith to implement a process to support a resolution. Unfortunately, however, Mary did not avail of that full process nor did she contact colleagues to discuss or seek guidance with her decision. It is regrettable that party structures were not used to resolve this situation and that colleagues and comrades across the county were left wondering what the rationale for the decision was and why now. We are grateful for Mary's contribution to the party and to Arklow over the last four and a half years,' the statement read.