[Updated] South Down SF councillor leaves the party..

It’s a well worn pattern that when a Sinn Fein councillor resigns the party whip, no one on either side of whatever has divided them will speak candidly on the matter.

Mickey Coogan from Ballynahinch has sat on Down District Council for Sinn Fein since May 2005. And there’s little evidence that the matter relates in anyway to larger strategies.

There seems to have been some tension, so the Irish News reports, between himself and another person in the constituency party. Some speculate that his resignation indicates a deeper frustration in the independent minded Coogan with centralised decision making inside the party.

UPDATE: The Down Recorder have the interview with Coogan:

“When I rang a senior party official to inform him I would be putting myself forward at the selection convention he asked if I was serious. I explained Naomi’s nomination was a cause of disharmony in Downpatrick and described the election strategy the party was advocating as ‘dangerous and totally unnecessary,'” he revealed.

At the selection convention, Coogan secured the backing of the Downpatrick and Ballynahinch Cummans, but he failed to secure enough votes to win the nomination. “I have no doubt that people in the room that night were told what way to vote. That’s when I started to become disillusioned as people were easily persuaded about which candidates they should choose.

“The killer for me that night was I joined Sinn Fein because I refused to accept things that I felt were wrong; I was strong and opinionated when I joined, but here we had a room full of people who just needed a phone call to tell them who to vote for”.

So Coogan is then asked to run in Strangford (which does have some of his political base moved into it), whilst Ms Bailey (who is based in Strangford, is the designated candidate for South Down). Something Chris has noted here on Slugger, more than once at the time.

Coogan goes on to say:

“It was hard for me to think this wasn’t deliberate as there were so many mistakes, some of them horrendous. I had agreed to contest the Assembly election in the Strangford constituency for the party, but my election poster said I was ‘leading the way for South Down.’

“What was happening was both insane and concerning. My Assembly election material had to be changed on four occasions and I had no literature for the Down Council election until I went to the party in Belfast and demanded it. I warned if it wasn’t provided I wouldn’t be contesting the council election.”

The Recorder also notes the comment of Sinn Fein’s South Down chairman Ryan Morgan, a Sinn Fein councillor based in Kilcoo and thought to be close to the Sinn Fein leadership:

“Mickey Coogan has served Sinn Féin on Down Council since 2005, so I am disappointed he has decided to resign from the party. Despite offers from myself and other senior party colleagues to meet with him to discuss any difficulties, he has yet to give a substantial reason why he decided to resign.”

Original Post resumes—–

It’s thought that Mr Coogan had been working closely with Chris Hassard, who replaced Willie Clarke (subject of an ongoing libel case which appeared in the High Court yesterday), with networking in his Ballynahinch electoral area.

Adds: I hadn’t seen this before, but it raises an intriguing question:

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • I think it should not be over-stated or under-stated.
    When a Party has as many councillors as Sinn Féin, there is an inevitability that some will fall out with the Party during their term of office. Although I cant think of it happening with a Council Chair before.
    In the absence of nobody actually knowing and Mr Coogan thinking there is a campaign by SF colleagues to undermine him, I put in this two cents. As I recall 18 months ago, Mr Coogan was the SF candidate in Strangford……..but in neighbouring South Down, they parachuted in Ms Bailie (I forget her first name) from the Ards Peninsula (Strangford)…she was not likely to win a seat but is maybe being groomed to run in Strangford.
    This might be what Coogan is thinking about.
    I dont really see the Chair of the Council as relevant. The council is power sharing so with Buggins turn, Coogan got the job in May. I think he is entitled to be there for a year.
    I dont think changing party is a good enough reason to get change him.
    Much more important will be the more recent Dungannon decision.

  • Mick Fealty

    Her name was Naomi… from Ballygalget, I think…

    The question about the chair may prove more important than you’re suggesting FJH… I don’t know the legal position, but to retain it he may need the support of the other parties… That could be a telling moment..

  • Darnit….I was going to say “Naomi” but didnt trust I was right.
    I dont know the legal position either.
    Presumably the other parties voted for, accepted him on the basis he was the Sinn Féin nominee as part of the rotation. From their perspective nothing has really changed.
    There is no point in a vote of confidence….he is now “gene pool” SF but not actually a member. The only people who might feel aggrieved is his fellow SF members ……but having him removed half way thru his term….they would be unlikely to get another candidate ratified.
    He is essentially the same person.
    Id be surprised if his chairmanship is opposed by anyone.

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s given an interview to the Down Recorder, so we’re to hear his side of the story tomorrow.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Perhaps he left when he found out that Adams’ portrait is set to go on display alongside that of Thatcher in The British National Portrait Galley in London?


    How fitting that both should be hung together…

  • RyanAdams

    This is a huge loss for Sinn Fein in the county which will not budge for them. And a district which is split between two constituencies were their nationalist rivals will be eyeing up seats in upcoming elections. Between this and Willie Clarke, One wonder’s how many more blows the Down District side of the SF ticket can take before one of the seats becomes no longer viable.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Agree with Ryan.

    Sinn Fein have an atrocious electoral record in South Down, and Coogan and Hazzard seemed to be the first to show signs of life for the party in the constituency (Clarke seemed to do well but opted out of the Assembly.)

    There is a problem which Sinn Fein struggles to face up to in the north in terms of how it treats and supports elected personnel- and the absence of an electoral opponent means there is little incentive to so do (no time right now to link to the many archived articles I have penned on this very topic.)

  • Drumlins Rock

    “in terms of how it treats and supports elected personnel”

    they sacked some of their top names from the assembly to non existant westminister jobs, your right about that.

  • Jim

    This is really a blow for Down District Council. If instability arises on account of this resignation we could see the councillors at loggerheads. The d’hondt system was used to select councillors to offices and that could be an issue if Cllr Coogan’s positions on committees are redistributed. He did say it was his intention to serve his office through as councillor and as chairman, and SF declined to present a formal proposal at this stage to oust him at the full council meeting on Monday evening when he announced his resignation from SF.

    The Council has recently moved to a new state-of-the-art premises and is coming to terms with the ‘big move’ from their old cramped building and a shift in culture etc. Now we are faced with a major row. The Council is struggling to get through its business at full council meetings as it is in good time and does not need a full blown crisis. Responsible councillors will recognise this and respond sensibly in the interest of the ratepayers and common sense.

    Whatever Cllr Coogan decides to reveal may go down like a political lead ballon with SF but all parties experience changes, crises, problems, issues etc. So it will blow over in time. The election is 2 years away or thereabouts.
    Whether Cllr Coogan decides to remain in politics yet is to be seen, but there are another 2 independents in the Council of 23, and one Alliance Councillor. This will inevitably change the process within the chamber, but will the lid stay on the pot and if so, for how long?????

    Cllr Coogan still has strong support in his constituency and therefore presumably a mandate to continue.

  • ThomasMourne

    I don’t see this in any sense as a blow to Down Council, apart from the problems it may pose for SF. I welcome the fact that cracks are appearing in the SF sectarian and violence-justifying block and look forward to the electorate wising up and ditching these sectarian dinosaurs. The sectarian d’Hondt system has no place in a democracy.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Her name was Naomi…. from Ballygalget
    She stood in South Down
    Caused Coogan to frown
    He then Stood down
    et cetera (to the tune of Copacabana)

    Okay – I will get me coat

  • Im slightly confused here.
    And dont have access to some stuff right now.
    Coogan is a Down councillor in Ballynahinch DEA which is (all?) in South Down Constituency.
    He stood in Strangford Constituency ……where the only part of Down Council is two or three wards in Rowallane DEA (where SDLP is more prominent than SF).

    It would seem the more logical SF candidate is from the Peninsula.
    So it looks like Coogan might simply be squeezed out.
    Apologies if I have not got this right but it just looks like “wrong place, wrong time”

  • Mick Fealty

    I think some of the Bhinch DEA came into Strangford last time out, which ought to have given the SDLP candidate a real boost.

    It makes no sense to run Coogan and Bailey in the wrong constituencies. For me this is why I give the story slightly more weight than the usual ‘egos with handbags’.

    To be fair to Coogan, he seems to have adjusted well to the Bailey candidacy and acknowledges in the interview that he might not have done as well as her in the short run.

    Even if you figure Coogan was expendable, not running the local candidate in Strangford was against the interests of both local party organisations. Since Chris Hazzard was co-opted into Willie Clarke’s job, there’s been no sign of her since.

    It smacks of external manipulation. The ostracisation strategy ought to be of concern too, especially if it is repeated elsewhere, since political parties in Ireland as in the US are local first, then national (or as in this case, regional) second.

  • It did…essentially his power base was split.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Don’t forget, Denis Donaldson, who was SF’s director of elections while at the same time employed as British MI5 agent. He spent a lot of his time in South Down and his actions crippled the local party to the extent the damage is not yet repaired.
    Aiden Carlin, a Down Councillor, was selected by locals to stand against Eddie McGrady. Carlin then “was prevailed upon by elements in South Armagh elements based in South Armagh to stand aside.”When you are given the choice of having your name on a ballot or a bullet the decision making process becomes pretty easy.” (his own words)
    Caitriona Ruane was parachuted in. She replaced both Carlin and Mick Murphy. Coogan himself elbowed out Ballynahinch’s SF councillor, Francie Branniff, who was sent off to unsuccessfully fight an unwinnable seat in the Banbridge area.
    Is it any wonder there is still some residual bad feeling in South Down?

  • fordprefect

    Hahahahaha, had a good laugh at Dixie’s post there! Was Mickey Coogan in SF before 2005? Because if he was, there must be something wrong with him, once the powers that be in SF decides who’s standing, staying or getting booted out on their hole, then that’s it! Have a look back at when Donaldson was running about implementing Brit strategy on behalf of his SF/Brit masters in south Down, the ructions it caused then, or did mister Coogan not know that you are not allowed to have a mind of your own when you are in or join SF?

  • Roy Walsh

    Sinn Féin lose two in close proximity in as many years, the blinkers must be lifting from their eyes.