McDonald and SF candidates sign pledge to be guided by ardchomhairle

Party leader has insisted during election campaign that she does not ‘take instruction from anyone’

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has signed a pledge, along with all of her party’s candidates, to be guided by instructions from its ruling body - despite insisting that she does not “take instruction from anyone”.

The pledge, which Sinn Féin requires all candidates to sign, promises that “in all matters pertaining to the duties and functions of an elected representative, I will be guided by and hold myself amenable to all directions and instructions issued to me by An Ard Chomhairle of Sinn Féin”.

Ms McDonald has repeatedly been questioned about evidence before the cash-for-ash inquiry in Belfast which heard that the then Sinn Féin minister for finance in Stormont, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, asked permission from senior unelected figures linked to the party before cutting the costs of the controversial scheme.

Other parties have accused Sinn Féin of being guided by unelected party and former IRA figures, with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil citing it as a reason to rule out any possible coalition deal with the party.

Ms McDonald told RTÉ on Sunday: “I can assure you that I don’t take instruction from anyone. I do of course, as any sensible person, always seek out good advice and good counsel, but that’s a world away from suggesting you’re under the influence of another person.”

‘No different’

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the party’s ard chomhairle is “no different to the governing body of any other political party, trade union or sporting organisation”.

“Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis - which is representative of our entire membership - decides our policy platform. Our policies are published for all to see, and our public representatives - elected by the people - stand for election on the basis of those policies. This pledge commits our representatives to deliver on the policies we present to the electorate, and the role of the Ard Chomhairle is to ensure that our representatives honour that commitment,” the party said in a statement.

The party supplied a list of all members of the ard chomhairle.

Sinn Féin opponents have seized on the evidence from the cash-for-ash inquiry to accuse the party of still being under the influence of former IRA figures.

Ms McDonald has consistently rejected the accusation that she is not in full control of the party. She said at the weekend that the “political establishment” is “desperately reaching for any excuse to exclude Sinn Féin” from government.

She has disputed suggestions that Mr Ó Muilleoir was seeking permission from senior party and former IRA figures to agree to changes suggested by his officials in the controversial renewable heat incentive scheme.

Approval sought

Texts and emails in late January 2017 show that Mr Ó Muilleoir sought approval from senior republican Ted Howell, who was an IRA go-between in the 1990s and one of Gerry Adams’ closest advisers.

Mr Ó Muilleoir had been asked to approve a plan to slash the costs of a scheme that by then had been closed to new entrants for almost a year, but officials fretted that he was taking too long.

Fearing that efforts to bring RHI under control would fail, David Sterling, then the civil service head in finance and now Northern Ireland’s most senior official, told a fellow mandarin by text that he feared Mr Ó Muilleoir was “acting under instruction”.

Despite being urged by officials to accept the curbs, Mr Ó Muilleoir also consulted with Padraic Wilson and Martin Lynch, both long-standing Republicans who are widely believed to have been senior members of the IRA.

Mr O Muilleoir rejected the suggestion that he was asking the men for permission. Ms McDonald said he was simply consulting with the party.

Current members of Sinn Féin’s ardchomhairle

Mary Lou McDonald TD - Party President

Michelle O’Neill MLA - Party Vice President

Dawn Doyle - General Secretary

Declan Kearney MLA - Party Chairperson

Pearse Doherty TD - Party Treasurer

Conor Murphy MLA - Party Treasurer

Matt Carthy MEP

David Cullinane TD

John Feeley

Chris Hazzard MP

Paul Maskey MP

Cllr. Ronan McGinley

Martina Anderson MEP

Mary Ellen Campbell

Senator Máire Devine

Sinéad Ennis MLA

Grace McDermott

Emma Sheerin MLA

Deirdre Hargey MLA

Liz Kimmins MLA

Philip McGuigan MLA

Caoimhe Archibald MLA

Cllr. Darren O’Rourke

Mairéad Farrell

Claire Kerrane

Séadhna Logan

Cllr. Natalie Treacy

Eamonn Nolan

Rosie Ní Laoghaire

Enda Fanning

Mick Nugent

Cllr. Donna McGettigan

Louise Brierley

Michael Doyle

Cllr. Mícheál Mac Donncha

Cllr. Matt Garrett

Caoimhín McCann

Amy Collins

Aodhan Ó hAmhaill