A high-profile former Sinn Féin councillor has said she quit the party because it is compromising on red-line issues and republicanism.
In an interview with RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Toiréasa Ferris — daughter of party grandee Martin Ferris and a former councillor on Kerry County Council — said that Sinn Féin is prepared to compromise too much on its principals in the pursuit of power.
Ms Ferris had been expected to be the party's candidate for the Dáil in 2020 and was seen as a potential member of the front bench of Mary Lou McDonald's party. However, she announced shortly before that election that she would not be going forward, resigning her council seat and retiring from politics.
Speaking of her decision to leave politics, Ms Ferris said the growth of Sinn Féin came with a moderation she was not comfortable with.
“I understood that Sinn Féin was growing. It didn’t sit well with me. Conversations were starting at that time, for example, around the Special Criminal Court, and even in the years before that about corporation tax… as it became clear that we would have a chance at power, things that had been red-line issues before then, were no longer red-line issues. That didn’t sit well with me.”
She said she was very happy with her decision to leave, adding that she would likely have lost the party whip early in the Dáil term.
“Making that decision was the best thing, because, if you remember, the first vote after the 2020 election was on the legislations for the Special Criminal Court, and Sinn Féin abstained. I wouldn’t have abstained, so the first thing that would have happened was that I would have been thrown out of the parliamentary party, because I wouldn’t have abstained.”
Ms Ferris said she had actually left the party completely shortly after leaving the Kerry County Council.
“I didn’t want to be part of what was going to happen. I hope I’m wrong. I’m a republican. There are a lot of republicans in Sinn Féin. There are a lot of people who I don’t think are republicans, maybe they’re nationalists, or socialists, but not both. I didn’t want to be part of it because I was so afraid about what they would concede for the sake of power.
"I feel disloyal saying that, because I’m still very friendly with a lot of those people, but that’s just the major doubt I always had, how far they would go for power.”
Ms Ferris said she had always said she was an activist, and not a politician, but that she would no longer be voting for the party, but for the candidate.
“The way I’m going to vote from now on, I’m not going to vote for the party anymore, I’m going to vote for the candidate who stands for the things I feel are more important. I believe that Sinn Féin are the only party at present who can make things better. But will they achieve the type of country I want, and that I think we’re entitled to in the end? I don’t think so."
Ms Ferris is now a practising barrister and academic and added that the time commitments of being involved politics had taken its toll.