Sinn Féin insisted yesterday its decision to temporarily freeze the expulsion of east Cork county councillor Kieran McCarthy over serious financial allegations, was not linked to the politician threatening to take legal action.
However, Cobh-based Mr McCarthy said: “I feel it is.”
The long-time party member was expelled from Sinn Féin last month following a lengthy internal review, which began last year, into serious bullying and financial allegations in the Cork East constituency.
While the party has repeatedly refused to divulge the allegations, it is understood they relate to a credit union loan taken out in its name by the Cobh cumann, as well as a reported claim of a bullying campaign against sitting Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan.
In the high-profile row, a rare moment of disunity within the party, Mr McCarthy was accused of undermining his colleague and of being linked to serious financial allegations.
However, he said the decision to expel him — which did not relate to a separate issue involving Mr McCarthy and a local charity last year — had been taken without the complaints being put to him. He said it had been an attempt to remove competition against Ms McLellan in the run-up to the general election.
Mr McCarthy and fellow Cork county councillor Melissa Mullane — who was suspended for 12 months over bullying allegations against Ms McLellan as part of the same review — had been told of the internal rulings last month and given 21 days to appeal.
However, as revealed by the Irish Examiner this month, while Ms Mullane is appealing the decision, Mr McCarthy said he is planning legal action because he has “no faith” in the process.
In a statement, Sinn Féin’s national chairperson Declan Kearney said Ms Mullane’s request will be heard.
He said Mr McCarthy’s expulsion will also be delayed for 21 days “to allow him a further opportunity to assist the party in its investigation of financial irregularities in the accounts of Cobh cumann, which is ongoing”.
When asked why Mr McCarthy’s expulsion was being temporarily frozen, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said it was because the party was in favour of “natural justice and fairness”. He rejected it was due to the threat of legal action and said that while Mr McCarthy was currently a party member, his membership will run out in 21 days “if he doesn’t respond in a credible way” and that the “ball is in Kieran’s court”.
Mr McCarthy told the Irish Examiner yesterday his solicitor was “waiting for Sinn Féin to provide important documentation” before deciding what action to take.
Asked about the legal action threat, he said “I feel it is” the reason for the expulsion pause and “their delay in providing all documentation sought by my legal team seems to point to that”.
The row has led to claims that up to 70 grass-roots Sinn Féin members are threatening to resign in protest at the expulsion and suspension.
However, the party’s headquarters said it had not been informed of any threats of resignations, with both deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and party whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh denying there was any problem with bullying in the party after a separate issue in Dublin.
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