Sinn Féin leadership frontrunner Mary Lou McDonald says if she is elected to succeed Gerry Adams she will examine how the party is run in light of a series of resignations.
On Monday night Ms McDonald will officially declare she is standing to succeed Mr Adams, with the vacancy to be filled at a special ardfheis to take place by the end of February.
Speaking to The Irish Times ahead of her Dublin Central selection convention on Monday, Ms McDonald acknowledged there is an "issue to be addressed" following a number of resignations.
She strongly rejected suggestions there is a “culture of bullying”, but added Sinn Féin must be better able to manage its development into a large political party. This will be a key element or her discussions with party members in the coming weeks as she seeks the leadership, she said.
“I don’t for a second accept or buy into this kind of thing of a ‘culture of bullying’. That is not true. But that is not to say there isn’t an issue to be addressed. There is, but to suggest it is a ‘culture of bullying’ is wrong. Are there issues? Yes there are. It is managing growth.”
Ms McDonald will talk to members about “modernising the party . . . shaping ourselves up a bit”.
She said it is not possible to manage a large- or medium-size party in the same way as a smaller operation, pointing out that Sinn Féin now has 13,000 members and has grown rapidly in the Republic.
“There is no doubt that we have had tensions, interpersonal difficulties and in some cases disciplinary difficulties. We are not an outlier in that. That is absolutely normal.
“I think of course we need to look at how we get better at managing on an ongoing basis all of these things that arise. We also have to be clear, and every member of Sinn Féin has to be clear, that we have a constitution and rules and the rules are applied fairly, transparently, without fear and without favour.”
Sinn Féin lost another elected representative yesterday after a county councillor in Galway resigned and accused some in the party of “unacceptable behaviour”.
The resignation of Gabriel Cronnelly came days after a Galway Senator Trevor Ó'Clochartaigh also quit amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Ms McDonald said she heard news of the two resignations "with very great regret".
Councillors have also resigned or been expelled in Tipperary, Limerick, Cavan, Westmeath, Kilkenny, Kildare and Wicklow.
The Dublin Central TD will not fully outline her policy platform on Monday evening. This will be done at a later stage in the campaign.
She added that, despite assumptions she is the runaway favourite, “there is no done deal here . . . there is no ordination, coronation”.
“It is the members and the members alone who select their leader and I am going out to have that conversation with that membership.”
This will mean speaking about Irish unity, Brexit and Northern Ireland, among other subjects.