Former Sinn Féin Cllr Sorcha McAnespy: “There’s too much nepotism and misogyny present in the party locally. It’s jobs for the boys. It is not open and transparent.”

Omagh Councillor Sorcha McAnespy launched a broadside against Sinn Féin in West Tyrone after her sudden resignation from the party on Thursday, and announced her intention to stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election.

The Ulster Herald appears to have broken the story on Thursday.

The former vice-chair of Omagh District Council said she made the shock decision because she was “left in an untenable position at local level” by Sinn Féin councillors and other members of the party.

She accused them of sidelining her as well as blocking her progress in Sinn Féin, while opening up positions to newer members with less experience and credentials.

However the mother-of-three, who was first elected as a councillor back in 2011, told the Ulster Herald that she has “no beef with the political analysis” of Sinn Féin and her difficulties were at a local level within the party.

She said, “So many things have happened. I am not been allowed to carry out the work I have been elected to do for my constituents and my progression has been blocked every way I turn and that is to the detriment of the local area.

“It is very disappointing when you put your heart and soul into something and do everything above board and by the book yet not get support or recognition.”

Ms McAnespy highlighted her concerns to the party but said she did not feel she received adequate support.

She added, “I have tried to get this addressed so many times. I also tried to deal with it myself and put my head down and do my work to represent my constituents as best I can.

“I have proved myself in elections and on Omagh Council. There should have been no question of me standing for Sinn Féin in 2014, however I just about got selected and nearly didn’t get out of the Sinn Féin traps.

“Now I feel I just have to move on. It has got to a stage were I often don’t know where a lot of decisions have been made even though I was at the last party meeting.” [added emphasis]

I’ll come back to that…

After first being elected to Omagh District Council in 2011, unseating another Sinn Féin councillor in the process,  Sorcha McAnespy was elected to the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in 2014.

A subsequent report in the Irish News has more forthright comments from Cllr McAnespy.

The former vice-chair of Omagh District Council claimed she had been “marginalised” within Sinn Féin in favour of newer members with less experience.

Ms McAnespy (36) said she raised her concerns with the party but did not feel she received adequate support.

There’s too much nepotism and misogyny present in the party locally. It’s jobs for the boys. It is not open and transparent,” she claimed.

“Sinn Féin needs to support their elected representatives. They need to find mechanisms to support people who feel this way.”

Ms McAnespy, who revealed her decision to quit the party in the Ulster Herald on Thursday, gained the most first-preference votes for the party in the Omagh ward in the 2014 council elections.

But the mother-of-three yesterday said she has been feeling discontented for several years, claiming she was being “undermined”.

“I just felt you were being restricted whatever way you went. It wasn’t nice,” she said.

She added: “I was hoping things would get better. I was hoping that I would be able to find another way around this.” [added emphasis throughout]

Occasional Slugger contributor, Chris Donnelly, played down the “fall-out” in the Irish News report

Political commentator Chris Donnelly said on Thursday night that Sinn Féin is likely to retain its three MLA seats in West Tyrone despite Ms McAnespy’s candidacy.

“This one is unlike Fermanagh and South Tyrone in that I can’t see this contributing towards a loss,” he said.

But he added: “It is another sign that Sinn Féin in the north is beginning to move towards a normal political party where there would be this type of fall-out. [added emphasis]

“That will bring challenges to Sinn Féin at a leadership level. They like to maintain internal discipline.”

[Beginning, indeed. – Ed]  Up to a point, Lord Copper…

Unlike previous resignations, so far Sinn Féin hasn’t demanded the return of their Council seat by the now Independent Cllr McAnespy, instead a party spokesman has been quoted in the various reports as ‘disappointed’

A Sinn Féin spokesperson expressed “disappointment” at Cllr McAnespy’s decision to leave the party.

He said, “We thank her for her service. Sinn Féin’s team of candidates for West Tyrone in the upcoming Assembly election were selected by the delegates of the party at an open and democratic selection convention. Sinn Féin will put our programme for progressive politics and for Irish Unity before the people of West Tyrone at next month’s election.”

Interestingly, I failed to find any reference by Sinn Féin on-line to an actual selection convention in West Tyrone – including their own press statements.  The party’s four candidates for this year’s NI Assembly election, three sitting MLAs, Barry McElduff, Declan McAleer(co-opted 2012) and Michaela Boyle, along with first-time candidate Grace McDermott, were announced at the launch of Pat Doherty’s Westminster campaign in March 2015.

Sinn Féin previously attempted to win four of the six West Tyrone Assembly seats in 2011. But on that occasion, Declan McAleer missed out. He was later co-opted into the seat vacated by Pat Doherty.

The party still believe they possess enough votes in West Tyrone for four quotas and believe they can roll out the right strategy to turn their 50 per-cent share of the overall vote into four seats.

That announcement is in contrast to the multiple conventions in Fermanagh/South Tyrone…  [And ‘South Tyrone‘! – Ed]

Of course, as with share prices, electoral fortunes can go down as well as up.

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  • Saint Etienne

    My understanding is that McAnespy topped the poll in 2014 despite been handed only one Omagh estate to canvass in by SF. The main party opposition to her was a local family who have apparently succeeded in placing their own clique under the party name.

    Difficult to present yourself as an alternative to the old order of nepotism in the south when you’re guilty of similar in the north I’d imagine.

  • Bill Slim

    She doesn’t know where a lot of the decisions are made? I strongly recommend that she familiarise herself with that fine piece of modern irish literature the Green Book.

  • UC

    she has “no beef with the political analysis” of Sinn Féin….so she is taking the huff for failing to be selected as a candidate?…net seat for her,no change in seat numbers for Sinn Fein in West

  • Granni Trixie

    Obviously there are always gripes from those who are not selected but it is Disappointing that some including Chris Donnelly (of this parish?) does not address the serious accusation of nepotism and misogyny .

  • “so she is taking the huff for failing to be selected as a candidate?”

    You seem to have neglected the fact that the Sinn Féin candidates for West Tyrone were announced way back in March 2015 – after an un-acknowledged selection convention.

    Rather than huffing for all that time, Cllr McAnespy claims to have been attempting to change the situation.

    “I was hoping things would get better. I was hoping that I would be able to find another way around this.”

  • Msiegnaro

    Not sure that I agree with Chris Donnelly’s analysis that a Sinn Fein seat in FST is in trouble, with transfers it should balance itself out there.

  • To be fair to Chris, of this parish, yes, he may have been asked to respond to the resignation, rather than the actual comments.

  • You may need to look at those figures again.

  • Msiegnaro

    I wish it was the case as I’m no fan of Sinn Fein but I expect Gilderniew to romp home again. In 2011 Gilderniew got 9110 votes while the other two runners scored just over 5000 each which was within the quota, therefore Sinn Fein have around 3.5 quotas in FST and are in no danger of losing a seat.

  • It’s the other seats you need to look at.

    Quota at the time (2011) was 6,858.

    Phil Flanagan was 62 votes in front at the final count.

    That was with 3 candidates.

  • aquifer

    Can revolutionary gangs transition into democratic parties? There is always change (Perestroica), but powerful economic interests will resist transparency (Glasnost) and the expansion of democracy to become more extensive (against capital) or inclusive (against organised labour). Transparency reduces the power and status of ministers, but also of those with secure jobs within state bureaucracies, so change by democratic means is likely to be instinctively resisted from within the executive, making revolution more attractive. Sectarian and populist subversives of democracy have plenty of functional idiots to depend upon.

  • banana man

    Maybe because the accusations of misogyny are unfounded, of course a critic of Sinn Féin will point to Fermanagh and SouthTyrone and Donegal but there are plenty of consituencies where it is 50/50

  • John Collins

    Well in all fairness,and this applies in all Parliaments and parties,when you are standing on the dispatch box the people to really worry about are not those directly opposite you, but those behind your back. I might add I can’t stand Sinn Fein, either for their past or their cuckoo economics.

  • Granni Trixie

    Being devils advocate ( as I do not know that facts of the case) might Misogyny accusations not be more related to her experience of the party culture? Also are there examples of nepotism on which she is basing her claims? Only then can we say her claims are just gripes form someone not selected.

  • Glenn

    Then given the structures as detailed in the report by Lord Carlile QC, Rosalie Flanagan, and Stephen Shaw QC. Is Donnelly affirming the reports findings that the shinners/provos has as defined in the report, a paramilitary structure (the so called IRA army council) which is invasive to all the shinners/provos actions and decisions.

    “It is another sign that Sinn Féin in the north is beginning to move towards a normal political party where there would be this type of fall-out.”

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yeah, with Seamas Mallon one of the highest pollers in Northern Ireland, the SDLP tried to get three into Newry and Armagh and only managed two. Donegal Sinn Féin suffered a similar thing having Tom Pringle benefiting from a major transfer trend towards him from FF, FG, Independents

    I would reckon based on Local Government elections in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, the SDLP have around 5000 first preference votes in Fermanagh and 1000 in SouthTyrone so they are fairly close to the quota if they can get that support out again.

  • Sam Maguire

    Without wanting to get into the personalities certainly the charges of nepotism may not be without foundation.

  • bogball88

    Misogyny-the only non current MLA standing for SF here is Grace McDermott nee Lynch who is a young woman in her 20’s, so don’t know how that accusation levels up here?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So Sinn Fein are secretive and unscrupulous? Hold the press. What party exactly did she think she was in?

    Donnelly’s comments that SF is “beginning to move towards a normal political party” is quite a statement. Beginning? It’s 2016. What a pathetic, shambolic mess.