Anger at SF meeting over ‘edict’ ensuring woman is only Limerick candidate

Former councillor who came close to winning Dáil seat last year disappointed by move

Sinn Féin members in Co Limerick have reacted angrily to an “edict” from party headquarters that only a female candidate will be allowed to stand in the constituency at the next general election.

At what was described as a heated meeting, some local members threatened to resign from the party if it followed through on the ruling that there should be a sole candidate representing the party in the three-seat constituency, and that candidate should be a woman.

It came as a particular blow to former Sinn Féin councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh who came close to winning a seat for the party in last year’s election.

Mr O Ceallaigh (28) from Bruff was running third after the first count but lost out in the final count to Independent candidate Richard O’Donoghue.


The party was informed of the candidate gender policy by former TDs Jonathan O’Brien and Martin Ferris, who are chair and deputy chair of the Munster regional body of the party.

Mr Ó Ceallaigh said he was “very disappointed” at the news.

“It’s disappointing considering how close we got to winning a seat. I was very eager to contest the next election. I have been doing the groundwork to regain a council seat and stand in the next election,” he said.

Mr Ó Ceallaigh, a writer and historian, said he was a grassroots activist who had put in the hard work and the disclosure at the meeting had come “out of the blue”.

There is no identifiable woman candidate for the party in the constituency at present. The understanding of those present is that a convention will be held for selection, where only women will be nominated.

The officers of the Munster body told the meeting there was an overall need for gender balance. A national party source said it does happen that certain constituencies have been designated to have a female candidate for good reasons. Such decisions invariably put noses out of joint, added the source.

The party has had to deal with a number of internal controversies in the constituency in the past. In 2017, 23-year-old Sinn Féin councillor Lisa Marie Sheehy resigned from the party after she claimed she was subject to “toxic bullying” from other members.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Sinn Féin are committed to ensuring that women are fairly represented in public life. As the party with the largest number of women TDs, we have a track record of ensuring that women candidates are given the opportunity to seek office. In a number of instances, this may require that only women candidates can be selected by party members in certain constituencies.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times