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.