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Sinn Fein's Derry leadership team asked to step down after internal review


Landslide: Elisha McCallion lost her seat by more than 17,000 votes

Landslide: Elisha McCallion lost her seat by more than 17,000 votes

Landslide: Elisha McCallion lost her seat by more than 17,000 votes

The entire leadership of Sinn Fein in Londonderry has been asked to step aside after an internal party investigation.

It follows concerns from the party leadership around recent election results and governance issues, with an Assembly election on the horizon next year.

Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion lost the Foyle Westminster seat to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood by more than 17,000 votes in December 2019.

Months earlier, the party lost five seats on Derry City and Strabane District council in the local elections.

Senior party members from both Dublin and Belfast carried out an audit of party members and supporters.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said the party had established a "review group" in Foyle ahead of the Assembly election

"Derry Sinn Fein has accepted a recommendation from that review to set up an electoral strategy group to oversee preparation for those elections," the spokesperson said.

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It is understood there was concern among senior party figures that power in the Derry branch of Sinn Fein was in the hands of a small number of families.

The party is currently represented at Stormont by Foyle MLAs Karen Mullan and Martina Anderson.

It has suffered a number of high-profile losses in recent years with the death of Martin McGuinness and retirement of Raymond McCartney.

Mrs McCallion, a niece of Ms Anderson, won election to the Republic of Ireland's Seanad after losing her Westminster seat but was later forced to resign after failing to return a £10,000 Covid-19 grant from Stormont which was issued to her in error.

One local source speculated that all might not be as it appeared with the party audit.

"There are a lot of disgruntled Sinn Fein members in Derry," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The party are losing votes to Aontu, People Before Profit, the SDLP and independent republicans."

He also noted that Sinn Fein was not in the habit of leaking large amounts of information to the media, unless the party wanted it out there.

"Call me cynical, but I don't there's anybody out. I think it's a big ploy," the source said.

"I think there was decline (on) issues. They are on a slippery slope, so they had to be seen to be doing something.

"Raymond McCartney has retired and Elisha McCallion has gone.

"Now, deliberately leak it and it appears to the grassroots, members and everybody that there is a big revamp.

"Everybody is asking 'Who's out, who's in?' There doesn't seem to be information about it."

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