Sinn Féin set to act on council split

Sinn Féin looks set to discipline three of its own county councillors after they yesterday refused to back a party colleague in an election for chairman of a county council.

They abstained from voting for party candidate Michael O’Connor, a recently co-opted councillor, to become chairman of Wicklow County Council.

The party last night blamed the failure of the three councillors to attend a strategy meeting at which the nomination had been discussed in advance.

Councillors John Snell, Oliver O’Brien, and Gerry O’Neill all abstained from voting for Mr O’Connor. As a result, Sinn Féin’s vote was split down the middle, with Mary McDonald and Nicola Lawless backing the party executive’s preferred choice.

Mr O’Connor has only been a county councillor for four months, having been co-opted to replace newly elected TD John Brady.

The co-option proposal of Mr O’Connor had been a point of controversy within the local branches of the party, as its former councillor, Ross O’Murray, had been overlooked. He has since quit the party, reportedly as a result of the co-option decision.

Mr Snell, who had been vice-chairman of the council’s municipal district committee in Wicklow town and the chairman of the council’s housing special planning committee had also been passed over for the chance to run for the county chair. The overlooking of Mr Snell as a likely nominee for chairman may have been the reason for the three councillors abstaining in the vote.

In the midst of the split within Sinn Fein, Pat Fitzgerald (FF) was elected county chairman and Edward Timmins (FG) was elected deputy.

Mr O’Connor told the Irish Examiner the party split was “a matter for the record”, but he would not comment further.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “All three of the councillors failed to attend the meetings where the party’s nomination was discussed. They then failed to support the Sinn Féin nominations for chairperson and vice-chairperson. The party will now be asking all three councillors why they failed to do so.”


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