Second Chance at Re-Selection for Sinn Féin’s Phil Flanagan – Updated

Sinn Féin’s other notorious tweeter, Phil Flanagan, MLA, may be facing a sizeable bill for libelling the UUP’s Tom Elliot, but the party’s central office has given him a second chance at continuing his political career.

He was deselected by his party constituency organisation on 13 December last year, but earlier this month the party’s Ard Chomhairle decided to re-run the selection process in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.  On 22 January, The Impartial Reporter noted

Mr. Flanagan refused to comment when contacted by this newspaper, instead he referred all queries to his party’s press office. In a short statement, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Following representations the Ard Chomhairle has decided to rerun the convention.”

The decision to hold another vote was taken on Saturday when the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle, which includes Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Michelle Gildernew, met in Dublin. It’s understood the leadership was expected to simply rubber-stamp the results of the Lisnaskea convention, instead they decided to hold a fresh vote. It is not known why a second vote has to be taken in Fermanagh or if there were any issues with the first one which saw approximately 150 party members take part. [added emphasis]

The Impartial Reporter also described the decision as “what appears to be an unprecedented move by Sinn Fein”.

The Belfast Telegraph reported, 22 January, unspecified “procedural errors” as the reason for the party’s decision to rerun the selection process.

The party’s central committee has decided to hold a second selection convention in Fermanagh after evidence of procedural errors in the initial selection meeting.

Mr Flanagan is to allow his name to go forward at the meeting, which is scheduled for next Sunday week.

And, in a further twist, fellow constituency party MLA, Bronwyn McGahan, is reported to have added her name to the list – despite having declared her intention to stand down before the initial selection convention.  As the Irish News reported on 12 December 2015

The third sitting Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA, Bronwyn McGahan, has confirmed that she will not be seeking nomination for next year’s election though she will see out the current mandate.

“I will continue my political activities as a Sinn Féin activist following the election and remain fully committed to the aims and objectives of the party,” Ms McGahan said.

“I want to thank everyone who have I worked with in the Assembly, in the constituency, and most importantly the people of Fermanagh South Tyrone. It has been a privilege and an honour to represent them.”

Apparently there are now five names on the list for party members to mull over – previously selected former MP Michelle Gildernew, sitting MLA Sean Lynch, and Councillor Sean Feeley, and now sitting MLAs Phil Flanagan and Bronwym McGahan.

According to today’s Irish News

Sinn Féin party officers will meet again tomorrow night to choose their three candidates to contest Fermanagh-South Tyrone in May.

Until then, here is Sinn Fein’s nominal leader in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Martin McGuinness, as reported in the Impartial Reporter, speaking earlier in January this year.

Even Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was last week wishing him well for the future, telling The Impartial Reporter: “Phil has made his own unique contribution to politics.

“He’s a very intelligent guy. He went forward in the local convention and narrowly missed out, I understand. But he is still a proud member of the party and dedicated himself to working for the party. I think he has, obviously, been through his trial and tribulations with the situation with the court case and so forth. I think, obviously, the democratic process within the party has decided who will represent us in the next Assembly election, but I absolutely wish Phil well,” he said. [added emphasis throughout]

Update Interestingly, given the allegations of unaccounted-for extra votes for Michelle Gildernew in the first selection convention [see comment zone], the re-run has reportedly seen Phil Flanagan selected, along with fellow sitting MLA Sean Lynch, and Councillor Sean Feeley.   Neither the renewed candidate Bronwyn McGahan, nor former MLA, former MP, and member of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, Michelle Gildernew, were selected by the constituency party organisation.

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  • Saint Etienne

    A back handed compliment from Martin if ever there was one, evidently he felt Flanagan was gone as well.

    Is this evidence of SF burying their sensitive court cases a la Conor Murphy who went from executive ministerial post & MP (albeit a do nothing post in that party) to MLA after the findings against him?

  • Robin Keogh

    Fair Play to SF offering a guy a second chance after he has messed up.

  • Tom

    I have been told from a Sinn Fein source that the convention is being held again because votes cast were tampered with.

    Their were 139 SF members entitled to vote at the convention but when Phil lost and challenged the votes cast their was 141? So 2 extra votes was added illegally by someone, it turns out Phil Flanagan was only 1 Vote behind Michelle Gildernew, so if that’s the case Michelle would have lost.

    The two people who overseen the convention & election 1 from Fermanagh & 1 From South Armagh are not allowed to have anything to do with this one. This is not a case of SF giving him a second chance it’s more Like Phil was shafted

  • Robin Keogh

    Thankfully SF as a truly democratic party are willing to rerun the contest. Other parties should take note.

  • Tom

    Its hardly democratic when votes were clearly tampered with? They had no choice but to run it again or else Phil could have had SF in the High Court.

  • That would make Bronwyn McGahan’s decision to seek re-selection this time round even more interesting.

  • the keep

    That was amusing Robin!

  • Robin Keogh

    well it would appear that the vote tampering was conducted locally? Which would suggest a personal vendetta or some sort of in-house sabotage maybe? The fact that unlike other parties SF HQ are directing a rejig suggests the party are very democratic and impatient of saboteurs.

  • Tom

    The re entry of Bronwyn McGahan must be some attempt to split the vote at the convention or cause confusion, she is an ex pow and her entry would be seen clearly as certain people in the party stating who they would like people to vote for. She had stated clearly in the local papers that she wasn’t seeking selection, so what has changed for her since the previous convention? The only thing is they were caught with extras votes in the box!!

  • Robin Keogh

    Little amuses the meek so they say 😉

  • Tom

    It was overseen by 1 from Fermanagh and 1 senior SF person from South Armagh so in Sinn Fein terms thats significant and as close to SF HQ as you get.

  • Robin Keogh

    Not at all. ‘overseen’ is just that, a casual glance assuming all is ok especially if there are no previous grounds for suspicion. SF could say to Flanagan; tuff, u lost now pizz off. In fact, SF going another round despite the fact it was overseen proves the party to be uber democratic and not stubborn in its own supervisory standard results. Any other party would say thus ‘not only was the result democratic we EVEN sent a HQ guy to make sure it was’. SF are saying that DESPITE the fact they sent an overseer they want people to vote again, to be sure to be sure as it were. Thats good. Thats solid fairness.

  • Tom

    Are you for real? SF were caught with their hands in the till, the people who oversee the election are their to ensure everything is done in accordance with the constitution. That means issuing the correct ballot papers to members entitled to vote, taking the ballots back and counting the result, so how did 141 ballots get in the box when their were only 139 present? Its very suspicious, and why knowing this at the time did Phil have to appeal to the Ard Chomhairle? It stinks of typical SF conventions

  • Robin Keogh

    And how many SF conventions have you had a player role in to be so convinced?

  • Tom

    The information I have posted is 100% accurate this convention is different ONLY because SF got caught, anyone who knows anything about SF knows the candidates are picked and agreed long before convention, this is fact and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Senior SF people had been briefing in Fermanagh that Phil Flanagan would not be selected for this election he had to go and this was coming from leadership If you try to argue any different you are either very nieve or really don’t understand how SF operate.

  • Robin Keogh

    So when I voted in favour of John Brady standing for SF for the Dail in Wicklow who was instructing me?

  • Robin Keogh

    Not being rude, just helpful – ‘there’ not their.

  • Tom

    Their are very few SF conventions where more candidates stand than seats available, therefore no problem exists, how many stood for selection that didnt get picked in Wicklow?

  • Brendan Heading

    Robin, someone fixed the election in the first place and apparently this irregularity was not spotted on the night. I would therefore hazard a guess that the only reason why the contest is being re-run is because there was a threat of legal action.

  • No you’re not being rude, Robin. You’re trying to do something else entirely.

    Still, you wouldn’t want everyone to start picking you up on every apparent spelling mistake or grammatical error…

  • Robin Keogh

    I have been picked up and I am grateful

  • Acrobat_747

    I think this is more evidence of cracks in the united front that Sinn Fein tries to put forward. This is probably a good thing overall and if SF plans to be in power it’s natural that there is a bit of in fighting. No party is any different.

    Sinn Fein does need to ensure that it’s well handled.

    I for one don’t think Martin McGuinness was too happy at being moved to Foyle. And I think Conor Murphy badly wants to be the northern leader.

    Interesting times for SF ahead.

  • Jollyraj

    Vote early and vote often, it seems 🙂

    Gildernew was previously involved with a controversy over recounts and doubts over admissible votes, I seem to recall.

  • Jollyraj

    Rightly so. Might also be worth looking into how there came to be extra votes cast. Some kind of shenanigans from somebody?

  • Jollyraj

    Any theories on who the ‘saboteurs’ might be or what the goal was?

  • Jollyraj

    No answer to that, one can’t help but notice..

  • Jollyraj

    Are you referring to Flanagan or the guy with the extra votes?

  • chrisjones2

    ….are you applying to become the new Frank Carson Robin?

  • chrisjones2

    How did he mess up? By neglecting to stuff the ballot box himself?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Robin – Ban the Clown from Twiiter ! or anytime he gets drunk take his mobile phone off him !

  • Tom

    This convention will be very interesting, if there are significantly more than 139 present and able to vote, which I suspect there will be and Phil Flagagan looses the vote it will clearly be seen that he has been shafted. I’m told SF members are split on this in Fermanagh and unhappy with the way the votes were tampered with & see this attack on Phil Flanagan coming from the East of the County Lisnaskea with a few individuals leading the charge against him.

  • babyface finlayson

    Why was it not picked upon the night? We are not talking about tens of thousands of votes here, just 139.
    It should have been spotted and made public instantly, not weeks later.

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont mind at all esp if it helps me out

  • Lionel Hutz

    SInn Fein just seems to be more and more a fractured party. Normally it’s seen at local government level, now at assembly level. How long before we see serious moves to remove the party leadership.

    Phil Flanagan is an interesting character. He shows signs of being a good young candidate but seems to also put his foot in it. Michelle Gilderenew is a very popular figure in the constituency. It’s not all that surprising that the SF HQ would want her candidacy selected over Phil….no matter the means used to achieve it

  • Jollyraj

    It’s a fair point but, as these shenanigans seem to indicate, it may come down more to number of votes cast, rather than simply the number of people who actually have a vote to cast. After all, of the 139 available last time, a mere 141 votes were cast. Wouldn’t be that surprising on those trends if as many as 150 votes are counted next time out.

  • Jollyraj

    That’s a cracker.

  • Jollyraj

    Could be a very high turnout of votes on both sides next time 🙂

  • Robin Keogh

    Honestly i have no idea. But glad it is being sorted out now

  • Robin Keogh

    None at all, genuinely. I dont know anybody in the party organisation outside wicklow and south dublin.

  • Robin Keogh

    John was the only candidate who stood. However the various cumann across the county democratically voted to have just John standing. He has form and a brilliant reputation in bray and the surrounding area. The rest of the county only saw an increase in SF support during the 2014 local elections. We couldnt risk splitting the vote. As it is we are scorching our feet trying to get John over the line this time out. Hopefully by 2021 we will have the support to warrant a second candidate.

  • Robin Keogh

    Fractured? How on earth do u come to that conclusion?

  • babyface finlayson

    Robin
    I wasn’t expecting you personally to know the reason, but surely you agree that it should be possible to accurately count a 3 figure number and double check it within, say, an hour?

  • Update Interestingly, given the allegations of unaccounted-for extra votes for Michelle Gildernew in the first selection convention [see comment zone], the re-run has reportedly seen Phil Flanagan selected, along with fellow sitting MLA Sean Lynch, and Councillor Sean Feeley. Neither the renewed candidate Bronwyn McGahan, nor former MLA, former MP, and member of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle, Michelle Gildernew, were selected by the constituency party organisation.

  • Robin Keogh

    Oh absolutely. I am not claiming nothing untoward has happenned there, I just dont know who is the culprit for it all. Recent news suggests that there is now an all male ticket with Gidernew out. That baffles me too.

  • Thomas Girvan

    I don’t wish to be rude, but you left off the full stop at the end of the sentence and the i is a capital letter..
    Just trying to help.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thank you. Much appreciated.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Oh there are regular stories of sinn fein internal disputes at council level. People resigning and running against the party. I recall a relatively recent one in Cork?

  • Robin Keogh

    But its hardly a sign that the party is fractured. SF are now the biggest political organisation on the island both in terms of representatives and membership. The odd wobble is to be expected.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well perhaps a better way of putting it is that they becoming more like a normal political party then. We see it also in the DUP to an extent. For so long, the way in which DUP and Sinn Fein seemed so free of any cracks served to highlight any disputes within the UUP and SDLP and even overexaggerate them. Not so much any more…

  • Robin Keogh

    Ultimately it depends on what motivates members activists and elected reps. Genuine commitment to public service, or selfish interests? The former means you are less likely to have spats, the latter means the opposite. So even if you might lose votes, in the long run a party is better off letting the selfish ones go.

  • Jollyraj

    Nothing to see here…..

  • Jollyraj

    Who is the ‘selfish one’ in this case? Gildernew or Flanagan?

  • Jollyraj

    Hmmm, he’s also lacking a subject pronoun and verb.

  • Robin Keogh

    I have no idea. Can you maybe stop trolling on me please.