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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 25 April, 2019

Sinn Féin members were warned of 'disciplinary action' for talking to media without approval

Here’s how party HQ has been attempting to keep internal rows out of the headlines.

File Photo SINN FÉIN HAS slapped two of its local representatives in north Dublin with disciplinary measures after a meeting of the party’s governing board. The meeting yesterday evening of the party’s Ard Chomhairle resulted in a six-month suspensio Noeleen Reilly, who announced this week she was resigning from the party with immediate effect. Source: Sam Boal

SINN FÉIN MEMBERS in Dublin North West were warned last month that they would be subject to disciplinary action if they spoke to local media – on any subject – without approval from HQ.

Additionally, the party’s city councillors were emailed this week by a senior figure telling them not to answer questions from journalists about internal matters.

The email was sent on the same day Ballymun councillor Noeleen Reilly announced she was quitting the party after a much-publicised dispute with local TD Dessie Ellis.

Reilly said on Monday that she was resigning with immediate effect, citing a failure of the leadership to deal with what she described as an “orchestrated bullying campaign by a number of people in Dublin North West”.

The dispute between Ellis and Reilly has been rumbling on for months. In late December, Ellis, who has been a TD since 2011, told the Irish Independent that the party’s approach to issues like bullying and social media wasn’t up to standard.

The dispute came to a head over last weekend, when the party announced that its leadership board had decided to suspend Reilly for six months following a complaint from a fellow councillor and to ‘censure’ Ellis for comments he had made to the media about Reilly.

That announcement was made on Saturday night. Reilly announced her resignation less than 48 hour later.

The messages sent to Sinn Féin members and councillors since the start of the year show how the party attempted to keep the matter out of the headlines by imposing strict rules on the parties involved and on other members who may be asked to comment.

They followed a directive sent to all members in Dublin North West last September that they should “desist from issuing any further emails (or social media posts) relating to internal Sinn Féin matters, or by way of comment on the situation resulting from the breakdown in relationships amongst party members in the area”.

A letter seen by and sent by Sinn Féin national chairperson Declan Kearney on 11 January said:

Unfortunately that directive has not been adhered to by all members and matters internal to the party in the Dublin North West area have again been raised on both social media and other media platforms.

It went on:

I am therefore issuing a further directive, with immediate effect, that party members are not to discuss internal party matters on any media platform.
Party members are instructed not to engage in any direct or indirect contact or correspondence with any journalist or media outlet in relation to internal party matters.
All party members in Dublin North West should only have contact with the local or regional media on the basis of press office approval.
Any breach of this directive will be subject to disciplinary action.

A message emailed to Dublin councillors on Monday by Nicky Kehoe, a former councillor who has taken on an organising role with the party in the capital in recent years, said that “the papers are ringing named councillors” about an alleged incident that had happened in Dublin North West several years ago, and told councillors to direct all queries to the national press office.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said last evening:

As the party was attempting to bring about a conciliatory resolution in the area, representatives were asked not to engage with the media as it could have been considered inflammatory by others.

File Photo SINN FÉIN HAS slapped two of its local representatives in north Dublin with disciplinary measures after a meeting of the party’s governing board. The meeting yesterday evening of the party’s Ard Chomhairle resulted in a six-month suspensio Dessie Ellis, a former councillor, spent 10 years in prison from 1983 for the possession of explosives. He was elected to the Dáil in 2011 after several attempts. Source: Eamonn Farrell

There have been a spate of resignations from Sinn Féin in recent years, with allegations of bullying repeatedly cited as the reason.

Mary Lou McDonald is due to officially take over from Gerry Adams as party leader at a special art fheis in the RDS later today.

Speaking in December, the Dublin TD said her aim would be to create a “respectful, friendly, comfortable, professional relationship” within Sinn Féin if elected leader.

She said: “I am very conscious of the fact that our party has grown very substantially and very quickly, particularly in what is called the south. That has been a huge boon for our politics. It’s brought energy and positivity, but it’s brought some challenges too.

There is a challenge for whoever is leader of Sinn Féin to manage that transition from a smaller party to a larger party. That’s not a unique challenge… I’m very anxious we get it right.

McDonald said that she had heard the criticisms being levelled against the party and had spoken to people at grassroots level to get a “deep sense” of the problem.

Read: Ballymun Sinn Féin councillor resigns citing ‘orchestrated bullying campaign’ in area >

Read: Sinn Féin’s Northern policing spokesman filmed removing clamp from car with bolt cutters >

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