Sinn Fein members quit party over Daithi McKay resignation
A Sinn Fein councillor and 17 party activists in north Antrim have dramatically quit the party following the resignation of MLA Daithi McKay.
In a letter sent to local Sinn Fein officials and seen by the Ballymena Guardian, the members said the mass resignations were in reaction to the treatment of the former MLA.
Sinn Fein have expressed their "disappointment" at the decision.
Daithi McKay resigned from the party after it was revealed that he had been in contact with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of him giving evidence to the Stormont finance committee into the Nama scandal inquiry.
The committee was investigating the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book.
In his resignation letter Mr Kay acknowledged his conduct was "inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong".
In reaction, the 18 party members said it was "inconceivable" that they could remain in the light of the way Mr McKay was treated.
Councillor Paul Maguire has said he intends to remain in council sitting as an independent.
The party announced last week that Mr McKay would be replaced by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Councillor Philip McGuigan.
Those who have quit, criticised the decision to appoint the successor, without any consulation.
The statement given to the Ballymena Guardian reads: "We here the undersigned, hereby resign from Sinn Fein with immediate effect.
"It is inconceivable for us to remain in light of the way Daithi McKay has been treated by the Cuige (Council) 'leadership' after his years of dedicated service to the party, and the subsequent 'anointing' of his successor, Philip McGuigan.
"We request no contact from Sinn Fein regarding our resignations, and any such contact will be considered to be unsolicited, and treated accorrdingly.
"We may provide third party contact details later, for the purpose of concluding outstanding business, if any."
In response Sinn Fein said it would continue to provide "first-class representation for the people of North Antrim".
A spokesman said: "Sinn Fein is disappointed at the decision of individuals in North Antrim to resign from the party following Daithi McKay's resignation as MLA.
“Daithi McKay acknowledged that his contact with loyalist Jamie Bryson was inappropriate and wrong.
"Sinn Fein's Cuige Uladh consulted with party activists in the North Antrim area and, following approval by the party's Ard Chomhairle, Philip McGuigan was coopted as an MLA for the constituency.
"We are disappointed at the decision of the individuals to resign.
"Sinn Fein will continue to provide first-class representation for the people of North Antrim."