A Sinn Féin senator and two party officials have resigned amid a controversy over £30,000 (€33,000) worth of Covid-19 business grants the party incorrectly received in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald apologised for what she described as "failures" and announced the resignation of senator Elisha McCallion as well as the chairperson of the Upper Bann Comhairle Ceantair and a party official in West Tyrone.
Ms McCallion, previously a Sinn Féin MP for the Foyle constituency, was a rising star of the party. She lost her House of Commons seat to Colum Eastwood of the SDLP last year.
She was then elected to the Seanad.
Her resignation will spark a by-election in the Seanad's Industrial and Commercial panel.
It emerged on Wednesday that three separate Sinn Féin offices received £10,000 (€11,000) grants under the North's Small Business Support Grant scheme
Sinn Féin said it did not seek the funding, which was paid to its political offices in March.
It is among a number of organisations and businesses in the North believed to have wrongly received Covid business grants.
Details of the payments were revealed by BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.
In a statement last night, Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin had established three party offices incorrectly received money.
She said she had accepted the resignations of the "three individuals responsible for these accounts", including Ms McCallion's.
"The failure to immediately return grants erroneously paid into Sinn Féin accounts is serious," Ms McDonald said.
"As party leader, I wish to acknowledge and apologise for these failures."
In a statement, Ms McCall- ion apologised "unreservedly" for her "poor judgment" and revealed the money was only repaid back in full last Tuesday.
"Earlier this year, a Small Business Grant was lodged into a joint account of which I am a named signature with my husband," she said.
"I did not apply for nor solicit this money, nor did I receive any correspondence from the department in relation to it.
"I fully accept that as a named signature on the account I should have taken extra steps to verify this situation."
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