Naas councillor among six Sinn Fein members to quit over bullying claims
A Sinn Fein councillor has quit the party claiming she has experienced "bullying, hostility and aggression".
The resignation of Sorcha O'Neill, a representative for Naas, Co Kildare in the Republic of Ireland, has sent shockwaves through the organisation amid accusations that her complaints were ignored by the Sinn Fein hierarchy.
Five other party activists in the Kildare area have also turned their back on the party.
"When you have members coming to you saying they are losing sleep and are distraught, we came to a decision that it was just best to leave the party because it was so unhealthy," Ms O'Neill said.
It is the latest in a series of controversies, most notably in Cork where two councillors resigned and former TD Sandra McLellan alleged she was bullied out of her position.
Sinn Fein has also had problems over recent months in Wicklow where councillors have rowed over who should be the local group leader.
Sources said the fresh row involving Ms O'Neill was linked to unelected representatives asserting substantial influence on local decisions. Ms O'Neill, who got 1,622 first preference votes in 2014, told Kildare FM she felt "intimidated" and that people had suggested her work ethic was "less than desirable".
"There's not one thing. It's a culture that has come up and it's not something that you can talk out of.
"These are personalities that don't see anything wrong in what they are doing. I have myself tried to reason with certain members," she said.
Ms O'Neill said she raised "multiple concerns" with Sinn Fein's head office over recent years but failed to get any more than a "casual response". A spokesperson for Sinn Fein said Ms O'Neill's statement had "come as a surprise".
The party said she should "reflect on her position" and it regrets her decision to leave.
"She was a dedicated and capable member of our team and on the council," they said.
"If there are issues in the constituency we will look at them, but Sorcha is a valued member of Sinn Fein and we would hope she will reconsider her position.
"We acknowledge that there are difficulties present in the area which we are working to address.
"We wish Sorcha all the best in the future."