Sinn Féin censures TD and suspends councillor for six months
Action involving Dessie Ellis and Cllr Noeleen Reilly comes amid ‘ongoing issues’ in Dublin constituency
Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis: censured by the party but no suspension. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Two members of the Sinn Féin party were disciplined at the weekend over a long-running and bitter dispute between both in their constituency of Dublin North-West.
Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis has said he will contest the next general election for the party despite being censured by the party’s national executive.
Noeleen Reilly, a councillor representing Ballymun, was suspended from the party for six months over her part in the dispute.
Yesterday, Ms Reilly responded to her suspension with a series of posts on Twitter alleging she was assaulted by a person (not Mr Ellis) a number of years ago but was now accused of being a bully by the party.
A Sinn Féin spokesman said the appropriate authority to investigate allegations of assault was the Garda Síochána and not the party. He said Cllr Reilly had been advised of that.
Mr Ellis’s censure amounts to a public dressing down but no suspension.
The decision was made at a meeting of the party’s ardchomhairle on Saturday: In a statement, national chairman Declan Kearney, said: “Following a complaint from a fellow councillor, Cllr Noeleen Reilly has been suspended from the party for six months.”
The statement added: “With regard to complaints by Cllr Noeleen Reilly about comments in the media by Dessie Ellis, TD, he will be censured by the party.”
Mr Ellis had said Ms Reilly was “not fit to represent Sinn Féin” and also alleged she was involved in a social media campaign against him.
In a statement, Mr Ellis said he accepted the ardchomhairle’s decision and apologised for comments made in the media about Ms Reilly.
“I now want to move on to represent the people of Dublin North-West and to build the party locally,” he said.
Asked about the matter on Sunday, party leader-elect Mary Lou McDonald said: “The issues are long in the making, unfortunately, and the party had made many attempts to intervene to try and sort things out.
“Unfortunately, that was not successful so a number of complaints have been made. Those have gone through our independent complaints procedures and the decisions arrived at and the sanctions entered into. And of course both people have a right to appeal, so I will be careful in what I say because I want to respect that right.”
Questioned on whether the party had “a problem with bullying”, Ms McDonald added: “No it’s not the first time that there have been difficulties and I don’t think we are remarkable as an organisation in that regard.
“It is certainly something that we need to attend to. We are a growing organisation and we have to at all times be very conscious of the atmosphere within the party. I’m very conscious of that as the leader-elect.”
Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin was a very large organisation, with 13,000 members.
“Yes, people have their ups and downs; people fall out with each other and we do our best to manage that. We are also a party that has rules and regulations and if things can’t be sorted out amicably, well then they go to our independent complaints procedure and that is how they are dealt with and that’s what has happened in this case.”
Ms McDonald said that procedure was run on the basis of natural justice and fairness and dealt with things “not in a sensationalist way, but in a factual way and in a fair way and every person thereafter has a right to appeal”.
On what sanctions Mr Ellis might face, Ms McDonald said that was a matter for the party and it would have to deliberate on that.
Mr Ellis (64) was a long-time republican activist before he became a TD. He was a member of the IRA and was convicted for possession of explosives in 1983, having been extradited from the US. The court heard that he had been in possession of multiple power-timer units for IRA bombs, including those suspected of being used in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bomb attacks in London.
Last month it emerged Mr Ellis takes his full TD salary of almost €94,000 despite party policy of TDs only accepting less than half a salary and using the rest for party and constituency work. Mr Ellis confirmed he has received the entire TD salary since he was first elected in 2011. He said the decision was taken due to personal financial matters, and that he intends to change his approach to his pay in the future.