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Republican voters uneasy over direction of party, says SF veteran McGlinchey

By Suzanne Breen, Political Editor

A veteran republican and former Sinn Fein mayor has voiced serious concerns about the party's political direction.

Republican sources said that Sean McGlinchey told a Cuige Uladh (Ulster executive) meeting that a deadline should be set for talks to restore power-sharing and if it isn't met then Sinn Fein should "pull the plug" on Stormont.

Mr McGlinchey is a former Limavady mayor and currently sits on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

He is also the chair of the party's East Derry comhairle ceantair (area council).

Sources said he told the meeting that MLAs continuing to take wages indefinitely while the Assembly wasn't functioning was alienating many grassroots republican supporters.

He said he had experienced a "very negative" response to the party on the doorsteps in staunchly republican areas when he was campaigning during the petition of recall in North Antrim.

He told the meeting that many voters in Rasharkin, Dunloy and Ballycastle were disillusioned with what they saw as the lack of "clear direction" from the leadership on the way forward.

Mr McGlinchey was speaking at the party meeting before the petition of recall result.

Republican sources told the Belfast Telegraph that those present at the meeting in Andersonstown included Sinn Fein's Belfast chairman Bobby Storey and veteran republican Padraic Wilson.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew, and the chairpersons of Sinn Fein cumainn were also in attendance, the source said.

Mr McGlinchey was the only figure to express concern about the leadership's direction.

The source said: "Sean McGlinchey told the meeting that people on the ground felt there was a lack of political direction at the minute from the Sinn Fein leadership.

"He said he believed it wasn't good enough to just keep hanging on indefinitely for talks to begin while Sinn Fein continued to take wages from Stormont. He said MLAs being paid for so long in the circumstances was not popular on the ground."

The source said Mr McGlinchey had stated that while he wanted to see Stormont back up and running, it shouldn't be at any price and he advised the leadership against cobbling together a deal that wouldn't deliver change.

They said: "Sean McGlinchey said that he supported a return to power-sharing at Stormont but it shouldn't be at any price.

"He believed that Sinn Fein shouldn't go into government again with the DUP until there was equality across the board.

"He said a deadline should be set and if the talks didn't start by that date then Sinn Fein should pull out of Stormont completely.

"He also questioned whether there was a plan B if efforts to restore devolution failed."

The source stated that Mr McGlinchey warned that Sinn Fein would be punished in next year's council elections if they didn't set out "clear direction" on the way forward. Mr McGlinchey served 18 years in the H-Blocks.

He was convicted of the 1973 car bombing of Coleraine in which six people were killed.

He caused controversy three years ago when he told a council meeting in Coleraine that he was "a proud ex-IRA man".

Victims denounced his remarks.

He defended his comments but expressed regret that he had made them in the town, which he admitted was "insensitive".

Mr McGlinchey had told councillors in 2015: "I'm proud of the men and women who were in the IRA with me.

"But that doesn't mean to say I am proud of everything the IRA did."

The Sinn Fein councillor is a brother of former INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey, who was shot dead in 1994.

He was elected mayor in 2011.

He has been a strong supporter of the peace process.

Belfast Telegraph

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