Suspended Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan has reportedly quit the party over its change in abortion policy after officially handing in her resignation letter this morning.
Ms Nolan and fellow Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin had come under intense pressure in recent weeks to make a decision over whether to stay in the party or leave as both hold pro-life views that are in opposition to the party's new official abortion policy position.
This pressure led to Ms Nolan being suspended for three months over her decision to vote against Sinn Féin's abortion policy in the Dáil earlier this year, and intensified further over the weekend when the party chose to fully support unrestricted abortion access in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
And while the Irish Examiner understands Mr Toibin is still considering whether to stay or quit the party, Ms Nolan officially resigned from the party this morning in a formal letter to Sinn Féin headquarters.
Ms Nolan's decision to quit the party means she will now be an Independent TD, and reduces Sinn Féin's TD numbers to 22.
It will also put Mr Toibin under increasing pressure to explain what action he is likely to take in response to the party's liberalising abortion policy.
In a statement this afternoon, Ms Nolan said:
"I have decided to as of today, June 19, to resign from Sinn Féin. I feel that as a pro-life republican woman that I no longer have a place in this party which doesn't recognise or show genuine respect for the pro-life views of members.
"It was disappointing that at the ard fhéis which took place in Belfast at the weekend, the party's delegates voted against the motion to allow members to have a conscience vote on the issue of abortion. I want to thank all of the 24 cumann who put forward motions on the need for a conscience vote on the abortion issue.
"I feel that it is unethical to force TDs who are strongly opposed to abortion to vote against their conscience. Every TD in Leinster House is directly responsible for the laws that they enact, if a TD votes for abortion they are responsible for all abortions that happen in this state.
"I do not want to have any hand, act or part in bringing about the end to the life of an unborn child, the most vulnerable in our society.
"It is not for politicians or society in general to decide who lives or dies. Every life is precious and every child deserves the chance to live. I don't believe that abortion is the solution to any crisis, how can it be when it takes the right to life away from the unborn?"
"I cannot and will not support abortion and for that reason I have made a decision to leave Sinn Féin. I want to assure the constituents that I represent in Offaly-North Tipperary that I will continue to work hard on their behalf and that I will continue to represent them as an Independent TD in Dáil Éireann.
"I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank them and my loyal supporters for their relentless support over the past few months," Ms Nolan said.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Ms Nolan's decision to resign from the party was "disappointing but not surprising".
“I very much regret Carol’s decision to resign from Sinn Féin. Her resignation is disappointing but not surprising.
"Sinn Féin made every effort to give its members space and latitude to articulate a position contrary to the party’s position in the recent referendum campaign on the repeal of the eighth amendment.
“The people have spoken on this issue. The Sinn Féin ard fhéis has democratically agreed the party’s position to support the forthcoming leglislation.
“I wish Carol and her family well," Ms McDonald said.