Direct Democracy splits as rebels say it’s undemocratic

Catherine Murphy, Noel McGrath, John Squires, Ben Gilroy, Raymond Whitehead, and Joe Blake at the opening of the Cork East Office of Direct Democracy Ireland.

Ireland’s newest political party has already suffered the oldest curse of Irish politics — the split.

Direct Democracy Ireland, which was launched last November, and whose candidate beat Labour into fourth place in the Meath East by-election earlier this year, is riven with division after delegates walked out on a national meeting last Saturday.

The walkout occurred after delegates from Cork and Offaly expressed dismay at the articles of the party’s constitution, which they had just had sight of after failed attempts to access it since the summer. In particular, the delegates cited the undemocratic appointment of members to the party’s governing body and the failure of the party to create the structures set out in the constitution.

Some of the delegates also questioned the activities of Ben Gilroy, a leading light in the party and the candidate in the Meath by-election. Mr Gilroy is also involved in a group called ‘People for Economic Justice’ which has engaged in disputes with county sheriffs and gardaí over proposed repossessions of properties.

Chairman of the Cork branch Noel Maguire resigned his position on Sunday. "I’ve never even seen a list of the members in Cork and I was the chairman.

"We had concern when we had to keep asking for a copy of the constitution. In the end, we had to get it from Leinster House. When I saw it, I said this is the polar opposite of democracy. This is a dictatorship."

Mr Maguire’s concerns were echoed by a delegate from Offaly, Ken Smollen. Outlining the events that led to the walkout, he wrote: "On reading our party constitution, which we received from Leinster House, there were a number of questions that needed urgent answers, ie, the fact that the DDI ‘council’ is a permanent council with complete control of DDI.

"None of the five members of this ‘council’ are selected by party members but co-opted onto the ‘council’ by council members themselves [a nice little cartel]."

The meeting last Saturday in the Red Cow Inn in Dublin was the third called by concerned members since last August. Mr Gilroy, the public face of the party, did not attend the meeting or one the previous week in Tullamore.

The party has held no AGM since the inaugural AGM from which the party’s constitution emerged. This inaugural meeting was held over 15 months ago, at some unspecified date. The document in question is laid out in a standard format with an A4 page appended, containing signatories of a number of attendees. There is no date or anything to signify that these members ratified the constitution.

The party’s director of elections, Conor Delgarno, said the AGM did take place "some time ago", at the Central Hotel in Dublin. He did not have a date for the meeting. He disputes that the organisation is split, and pointed out that only seven delegates walked out of the meeting at the Red Cow. The total attendance is understood to have been 23.